Making the Grade with Nerdy

As we congratulate TCV portfolio company Nerdy on its first day trading as a public company (NYSE: NRDY), we wanted to take a look back at what has been a remarkable growth and innovation story in the online education market. 

We first met Nerdy founder and CEO Chuck Cohn in St Louis in 2014.  At the time, Nerdy (doing business then as its flagship brand Varsity Tutors) had 90 employees and no physical offices, operating effectively as a fully-remote company.  Sensing an opportunity to disrupt the legacy tutoring market, Chuck had incubated Nerdy as a college student at nearby Washington University in St Louis a few years prior. Over time, it morphed from Chuck’s “side hustle” into his full-time mission.  All the while, Chuck had not taken traditional institutional venture capital, choosing instead to bootstrap the business while driving high-revenue growth.

We were immediately impressed by Chuck’s vision for Nerdy and his views on disrupting the legacy tutoring market.  Historically, tutoring was a cottage industry – one that was very fragmented and in the billions of dollars in size in the United States.  The professional side of the market was physical center-based businesses (in the mall next to the grocery store) that generally had franchise models characterized by high prices and questionable outcomes and satisfaction.  And of course there were individual tutors (think former teachers or college students) that used Craigslist, parent’s group lists, bulletin boards, or local relationships in schools to find students. Chuck believed there was a way to empower individual tutors and match them with students that they were uniquely qualified to help. 

Chuck’s model sought to more deeply understand the skills of a tutor and the needs of a student and facilitate connections between expert tutors and parents and students across thousands of subject areas regardless of geography.  Chuck’s emphasis on quality and product innovation proved prescient as online learning steadily gained importance.  As online learning grew, Chuck decided that in order to scale his platform it made sense to bring on an institutional partner for the first time.  We were honored to have the opportunity to partner with Chuck, leading a funding round in November 2015. Chuck chose to partner with TCV given our combined expertise in consumer business models as well as our focus on education technology. 

Since our initial investment, Nerdy has grown significantly, assembling what we believe to be an  all-star management team.  The addition of Ian Clarkson and Heidi Robinson opened up a new product center of gravity in Seattle, and added the “been there, done that before” capabilities required to scale a business. We’ve had the opportunity to connect executives from the TCV network to assist in the mission, most notably Erik Blachford (TCV Venture Partner and former Expedia CEO) who joined as an early Board member, and Adam Weber who joined as CMO after leading marketing at Dollar Shave Club (another prior TCV portfolio company). 

As COVID swept the globe, Nerdy’s offerings took on a heightened importance, forcing parents to contend with serious issues like learning loss and isolation. Nerdy and other digital providers stepped in with personalized solutions.  The unwavering focus on building the best product has enabled Nerdy to become a comprehensive learning destination with over 3,000 subject areas for education and enrichment while maintaining very high levels of student satisfaction.  We think this is the winning strategy over the long term.

We congratulate the entire Nerdy organization on a momentous occasion and look forward to working with the team in continuing to transform how people learn! 

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any of the data or statements by the author and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


A Lesson to Remember: How Newsela Transformed K-12 Education with Customized Content That Engages Teachers and Students

Newsela’s founders were educators who imagined the equivalent of Spotify or Netflix for educational content in schools. They designed their SaaS offering for the practical realities of classroom instruction, seeded it with teachers across the country, and then leveraged teacher advocacy to win district-level contracts. When it looked like their high growth could be derailed by school closings during the pandemic, they pivoted to giving content away to demonstrate solidarity with their customers – and reached two-thirds of all schools in the country. Now Newsela is firmly entrenched in the new normal for K-12 education: laptops for every kid, bandwidth for every classroom, and customized, teacher-friendly content that helps dissolve differences in learning levels among students in the same grade. In this podcast, TCV’s Dave Eichler and Newsela co-founder and CEO Matthew Gross to unpack the secrets of the company’s success:

  • What separates Newsela from other ed tech companies, both during the pandemic and beyond.
  • How Newsela turned its users into a vast virtual marketing force.
  • How to succeed at giving away your product strategically – even if you could still charge for it.
  • Why playbooks are better than plans in a crisis.
  • How to overcome cultural and structural barriers to greater diversity in recruiting and hiring.

For all this and much more, settle back and press play.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the authors and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Never Waste a Crisis: How Varsity Tutors Accelerated Product Development to Keep Children Educated During the Pandemic and Beyond

By early 2020, 13-year-old Varsity Tutors was strongly positioned as the largest live learning platform in the U.S., dedicated to connecting students and professionals with personalized instruction.

Then the pandemic impacted demand, due to social distancing and parents balancing home-schooling children and working from home. After taking quick action to ensure business continuity, Varsity Tutors went back on offense, expanding its offerings to support customers who were adopting technology at a fast pace.

The company moved its core tutoring business entirely online, vastly increased small class offerings, and introduced new options such as free live large classes. Customers responded enthusiastically and Varsity Tutors kept innovating, with virtual summer camps, engaging content delivered by celebrities, and a new program, School@Home, that can fully replace conventional schooling — including accreditation consultation, so pupils can advance to the next grade. What began as a crisis had become a crucible of creativity.

In the latest episode of Growth Journeys, Heidi Robinson, Chief Product Officer at Varsity Tutors, and TCV Principal Beth Knuppel explore a range of topics that can spark ideas for product leaders everywhere:

  • How to successfully rally and redirect talent into new responsibilities.
  • How to “predict the weather” in times of high uncertainty, so you can develop the right products at the right time.
  • Why looking at your business-like Lego® blocks can unlock greater flexibility and adaptability.
  • Principles for successful product design and development in an increasingly virtual world.
  • Why using your own products is the best way to understand your customers.

For all this and much more, settle back and press play.

###

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the authors and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Watermark Expands into Course Evaluation with the Addition of EvaluationKIT

NEW YORKJuly 18, 2018 — Today Watermark announced that EvaluationKIT, the leading provider of enterprise online course evaluation and survey software for educational institutions, has joined the Watermark family. EvaluationKIT had been recognized this past June by SIIA as an Education Technology CODiE Award Winner for the 2018 Best Higher Education Enterprise Solution. With this addition, Watermark becomes the market leader in outcomes assessment, course evaluation, and faculty activity reporting solutions to help colleges and universities streamline core institutional processes while capturing and using better data to drive improvements at all levels of the institution.

Founded by Kevin Hoffman and Matt Rahdar in 2007, EvaluationKIT has been driven by a mission to empower institutions with robust and easy-to-use technology to support course evaluation and institutional survey needs. A two-time SIIA CODiE Award winner and integrated with all leading higher education learning management systems, EvaluationKIT provides a complete online solution for administrators to create and distribute surveys across the entire campus and automate information-rich reporting for faculty. Today, millions of users, including students, instructors, department chairs, IT and LMS administrators, deans, and provosts at over 400 educational institutions around the world are using EvaluationKIT to generate actionable insights and improve teaching and learning.

“For more than 20 years, Kevin Hoffman has been working to support and improve student feedback processes in education. He is recognized as one of the leading authorities in online course evaluation, from his early work in this area launching the first large-scale adoptions in U.S. higher education to building EvaluationKIT as the leader in this product category. I greatly respect the contributions Kevin and his group continue to make in this space,” said Kevin Michielsen, CEO of Watermark.

Michielsen continued, “That kind of experience aligns well with our mission to help institutions engage in meaningful feedback practices in order to gather, organize, and use data to improve student and institutional outcomes. In combining our experience with that of EvaluationKIT, we’re working hard to bring together a more comprehensive set of solutions that better support the higher ed community.”

Kevin Hoffman, EvaluationKIT’s CEO and Co-founder, commented, “We are excited to be joining the Watermark family and plan to continue our mission to provide the leading software solution for institutions to collect and report on student feedback for course evaluation and institutional survey needs. At the same time, we recognize the value of merging this process with other streams of institutional data to provide even more powerful insights and efficiencies for institutions. This is what is truly thrilling about becoming a part of Watermark and the vision for an integrated educational intelligence system that empowers administrators, faculty, and students with better-connected data to make evidence-based decisions and drive improvements.”

Watermark Now the Largest Educational Intelligence Provider in the Industry.

In 2017, the three largest providers of ePortfolio and assessment management solutions for higher education – Taskstream, Tk20, and LiveText – joined forces to become what is now Watermark. Last month, Digital Measures, the leading provider of web-based faculty activity reporting software, joined Watermark. Now with EvaluationKIT, the leading provider of course evaluation and institutional survey software, Watermark can better serve higher education institutions with an expanded set of solutions.

Watermark has over 75 years of combined experience serving higher education and more than 1,600 unique partner institutions worldwide. This increase in size, resources, and expertise allows Watermark to provide institutions with more extensive data and meaningful insights to drive improvements at all levels.

“Like Watermark, EvaluationKIT is focused on helping their partner institutions optimize outcomes and effect positive changes through the use of feedback and data,” said Nari Ansari, Principal at TCV – Watermark’s chief majority investor. “Together, Watermark will work toward a comprehensive, integrated educational intelligence system that provides a more holistic view of learning and institutional quality to enable continuous improvement initiatives at colleges and universities.”

About Watermark™

Watermark’s mission is to put better data into the hands of administrators, faculty, and learners everywhere in order to empower them to connect information and gain insights into learning which will drive meaningful improvements. Through its innovative educational intelligence platform, Watermark supports institutions in developing an intentional approach to learning and development based on data they can trust. For more information, visit www.watermarkinsights.com.

About EvaluationKIT

EvaluationKIT is the leading provider of enterprise online course evaluation and survey software to over 400 educational institutions. Easy to implement and straightforward to manage, EvaluationKIT includes a variety of features proven to drive response rates, with turnkey integrations for learning management systems and a robust suite of reporting functionality. For more information, visit www.EvaluationKIT.com.

Contact: 
Victoria Guzzo
Corporate Communications
708.250.4622
vguzzo@watermarkinsights.com

SOURCE Watermark


Digital Measures Joins Watermark To Advance Educational Intelligence Solutions For Higher Education

NEW YORKJune 27, 2018 — Today, Watermark announced that Digital Measures, the leading provider of a web-based faculty activity reporting solution, joined the Watermark family. With this addition, Watermark becomes the market leader in outcomes assessment, accreditation management, and faculty activity reporting solutions to help colleges and universities streamline core institutional processes while capturing and using better data to drive improvements at all levels of the institution.

Digital Measures is a pioneer in the field of faculty activity reporting for higher education. Since 1999, Digital Measures has partnered with 3 of the 5 largest U.S. universities to achieve reporting success. Working closely with over 350 partner institutions and more than 400,000 faculty members, the company has gained a deep understanding of faculty needs, as well as the complexities of faculty activity reporting. Digital Measures was driven by a mission to help faculty more easily and efficiently document their teaching, research, and service activities and track progress for review processes, while simplifying inefficient reporting processes for administrators.

With a streamlined, centralized approach for capturing and reporting this information, the company’s flagship product, Activity Insight, and its Workflow Module have helped institutions more effectively leverage faculty activities and accomplishments and helped faculty prepare for annual performance, promotion, and tenure reviews.

“We deeply value the experience Digital Measures has in understanding faculty activity reporting processes at institutions,” said Kevin Michielsen, CEO of Watermark. “That kind of experience is invaluable and aligns well with our mission of helping institutions use better data to improve learning and institutional quality.”

“We understand that teaching and learning take place and are captured in many different areas and systems across campus. Being able to measure only a part of that picture is insufficient for an institution. By combining our experience with that of Digital Measures, we’re bringing together a more comprehensive set of solutions that better support and provide members of the higher ed community with the educational intelligence needed to improve outcomes.”

Matt Bartel, CEO and Founder of Digital Measures, commented, “We are excited to join the Watermark family and look forward to strengthening our commitment to support faculty. With the opportunity to draw feedback from a client base of over 1,400 institutions worldwide, we’re eager to contribute to Watermark’s vision for an integrated educational intelligence system that empowers administrators, faculty, and students with better-connected data to make evidence-based decisions.”

The Watermark team is excited to begin working with the Digital Measures team. “We believe Matt is an innovator in this space and recognize the company’s deep commitment to supporting faculty,” Michielsen said. “Digital Measures will play a key role as we work together toward this vision.”

The Largest Assessment and Faculty Activity Reporting Solutions Provider in the Industry.

In 2017, the three largest providers of ePortfolio and assessment management solutions for higher education –Taskstream, Tk20, and LiveText – joined forces to become what is now Watermark. With the addition of Digital Measures, Watermark now has over 65 years of combined experience developing software for higher education, supporting over 1,400 institutions across the globe. As one company, employees will be dedicated to serving this growing user community with innovative solutions and world-class support services that empower institutions with better data to make improvements at all levels.

“Thanks to Watermark’s rapid growth over the last year and half, we’re seeing a significant increase in the number of colleges and universities who look to Watermark for technology solutions to improve learning outcomes and institutional effectiveness,” said Nari Ansari, Principal at TCV – Watermark’s majority investor. “We believe Digital Measures will further strengthen Watermark’s position and accelerate work toward a vision for an educational intelligence system.”

Terms of the transaction are not disclosed. Tyton Partners acted as exclusive financial adviser to Digital Measures and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP and Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. served as legal counsel.

To learn more, visit www.watermarkinsights.com.

About Watermark™
Watermark’s mission is to put better data into the hands of administrators, faculty, and learners everywhere in order to empower them to connect information and gain insights into learning which will drive meaningful improvements. Through its innovative educational intelligence platform, Watermark supports institutions in developing an intentional approach to learning and development based on data they can trust. For more information, visit www.watermarkinsights.com.

About Digital Measures
Digital Measures seeks to empower universities to succeed at a higher level by helping them leverage faculty teaching, research and service information more effectively. The company’s flagship product, Activity Insight, simplifies faculty activity data collection and reporting, and its Workflow Module brings the same efficiency to faculty reviews and more. Digital Measures had partnered with three of the five largest U.S. universities to achieve reporting success. Since its inception, the company has fostered a culture of innovation focused on best-practice technology use and guidance for simplifying institutional processes. For more information, visit www.digitalmeasures.com.

Contact:
Victoria Guzzo
Director of Corporate Communications
708.250.4622
vguzzo@watermarkinsights.com

SOURCE Watermark

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Watermark and TCV Close on Strategic Investment to Accelerate 2018 Growth

NEW YORKApril 17, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Watermark, the largest provider of assessment software for higher education institutions worldwide, has announced the close of its agreement with TCV to acquire a controlling interest in the company. TCV is one of the largest providers of capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry and has backed industry-leading technology companies, including Airbnb, Capella Education, EA, EmbanetCompass, ExactTarget, HomeAway, Netflix, Spotify, and Zillow. In addition, Quad Partners and Watermark’s management team have reinvested alongside TCV and are joined by new investor Exceed Capital Partners.

Watermark provides educational intelligence systems to over 1,100 higher education institutions worldwide, including a majority of the top 200 U.S. News & World Report colleges. Watermark continues to grow rapidly, with over 50 institutions joining the Watermark community or expanding their use of Watermark across the institution so far this year, including top universities such as Syracuse UniversityPrinceton UniversityMichigan State University, and Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. With over 300 employees supporting these partner institutions, Watermark will use TCV’s investment to continue its growth trajectory as well as accelerate development of its innovative educational intelligence platform.

“We’re excited to have TCV as a financial partner. With a deep understanding of and experience in the education technology and software/SaaS markets, TCV will help us to welcome more clients to our community and to continue building solutions these institutions need to drive meaningful improvements in institutional effectiveness, program quality, and student learning,” said Watermark CEO Kevin Michielsen.

Assisting in the close, global independent investment banking firm Evercore advised Quad Partners, and investment banking firm Tyton Partners advised TCV on the transaction.

About Watermark
Watermark’s mission is to put better data into the hands of administrators, educators, and learners everywhere in order to empower them to connect information and gain insights into learning which will drive meaningful improvements. Through its innovative educational intelligence platform, Watermark supports institutions in developing an intentional approach to learning and development based on data they can trust. For more information, visit www.watermarkinsights.com.

About TCV
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 110 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.

Contacts:
Victoria Guzzo
Director of Corporate Communications
708.588.1735
vguzzo@watermarkinsights.com

TCV
Katja Gagen
Marketing
415.690.6689
kgagen@tcv.com