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Girl Doing Her Homework on Computer

Reach Capital: The vital role of edtech companies during COVID-19

Jami O'Toole

Like millions of other parents across the country, COVID-19 thrust me into the role of facilitator in the ‘at home’ part of my kids’ remote learning experience. After trial and error and a few emails to teachers, I figured out how to get them logged-in to numerous learning apps and submit assignments in their learning management systems. I’m adapting to explaining multiple approaches to how to do long division. I’ve also been able to observe my kids’ engagement and learning when they use a wide range of online applications.

Schools and teachers adapted, as well. More than 124,000 public and private schools across the US closed their doors, impacting more than 55 million students. District leaders quickly spun up COVID-19 response teams. Teachers bravely stepped up to overcome the daunting challenge of designing and implementing remote learning for an unknown period. This challenge was further complicated as educators worried about the increased stress students might be experiencing due to the crisis and lack of access to devices and Wi-Fi. Usually, school leaders and teachers spend one to two years planning to implement blended or personalized learning models that incorporate technology with in-person instruction. With COVID-19, teachers made this pivot in one to two weeks and relied exclusively on technology to deliver instruction.

Edtech companies stepping up despite uncertainty

While we’ve all heard a lot about the amazing efforts of parents, teachers, and schools, most people aren’t as aware of the impact the rapid move to remote learning has had on the edtech sector. Let’s face it, without the right tools and technology, it would be very hard (if not impossible) for students to be successful learning from home. There was ⁠— and continues to be ⁠— an urgent need for edtech companies to help make the learning environment easy, seamless, and worthwhile for both teachers and students. At the same time, 64 percent of edtech companies have less than six months of cash on hand, which means their sustainability is at risk.

Reach Capital: Helping to ensure edtech company’s sustainability and success

As edtech companies move quickly to meet their users’ needs in the new world of remote learning, they need guidance and support. Reach Capital ⁠— an impact-focused venture capital fund that invests in early-stage edtech companies ⁠— stepped up to support many of its portfolio companies as they made quick pivots to ensure their products could be used at home by parents and students. Companies like Nearpod, Outschool, and Mystery Science saw unprecedented spikes in usage, which can lead to cost increases from hosting to product development to customer support ⁠— all hitting at a time when they are experiencing uncertainty in how the crisis will impact their revenue.

Reach is supporting its portfolio companies as they navigate uncharted waters. As its portfolio companies created new product offerings and offered free services to provide engaging remote learning, Reach worked closely with the CEO and leadership teams of the companies to help them navigate the financial implications. They are a thought partner as these companies make tough decisions about revising financial projects, seeking small business funding, and reducing costs so that the products and services that teachers and students are relying upon in their remote learning experiences can withstand the crisis. They also provided counsel on important pivots companies could make to further relevance and impact in today’s world, like offering free memberships, or creating content for parents for the first time. 

Everyone has a role to play in helping students get the education they deserve during this crisis, and it’s humbling to bear witness to such amazing efforts on the part of so many during this difficult time. Parents, teachers, schools ⁠— they are the obvious heroes. But we couldn’t be successful without the tools that help connect us and help make our children successful.

If you have a request for funding that is related to COVID-19, please know that we are committed to fighting this pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout. Our immediate available funding has gone to accelerating the development of therapies, increasing the supply of PPE in Texas, stabilizing small business, and assisting our portfolio of current grantees.