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Clark, a venture-backed tutoring platform, will now help tutors build their own sites

Posted by on Mar 22, 2019 in Education, Startups, TC, tutoring | 0 comments

A couple of years ago, Clark, a New York-based startup, appeared on the scene with tutoring software that aimed to both make it easier for educators to start and manage a tutoring business by handling on its platform all the work that tutors struggle to find time to do, from drumming up students, to managing scheduling and payments, to making it far simpler to communicate with parents.

Today the company is announcing a bit of a shift, moving away from simply selling access to its business software for a monthly subscription fee to now helping tutors set up their very own storefronts, replete with websites, certifications, marketing materials and even clients, which Clark will help them find.

How it will work, from a dollars standpoint: Clark will charge an upfront fee for setting up the business and getting it off the ground, then charge a smaller monthly fee for use of its software, which is 15 percent of sessions fees for students who are referred by Clark for the initial year, and then 15 percent of all sessions after that.

Called its “business in a box” product, it’s an interesting twist and part of a broader wave of startups that are capitalizing on the growing number of people who are self-employed, or who want to be, or who simply want to supplement their income with a “side hustle.” Bird’s recent decision to partner with local entrepreneurs in other parts of the world who will manage their own fleets of its electric scooters (and pay Bird a cut of their revenue), is another recent example. Clark may also have drawn inspiration from Wonderschool, a venture-backed startup that’s empowering early childhood educators to open their own in-home preschools or day cares while it handles the administration and logistics.

What teachers get with this new product, specifically, is support in building their business from the ground up, including website creation and branding, building a presence on review sites, marketing the business (including through search engine optimization), and a kind of bootcamp for managing a business that covers things like setting rates and managing clients, according to co-founder and CEO Megan O’Connor.

She also tells us that once a business is off the ground, customers will get access to the company’s software, which should allow them to schedule tutoring sessions, manage payments and invoices, give session feedback to parents through a communications tool and match with new students. Not least, Clark has a dedicated customer success team based in New York, says O’Connor, so clients have somewhere to turn.

According to Clark, the startup has so far facilitated roughly 20,000 tutoring sessions and it has hundreds of businesses across the country using its existing service. It’s because many of these clients weren’t sure how to get their businesses off the ground that Clark adopted this new model, which will also strive to connect parents with educators that match their children’s needs (parents have final say over who they ultimately hire).

Clark has raised $3.5 million to date, including from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Rethink Education, Flatworld Partners and Winklevoss Capital.

Whether its new direction speeds up its momentum remains an open question, but the company is operating in a huge market. According to some new market research on the global private tutoring opportunity, the market was valued at $96 billion in 2017, and it’s expected to generate more than $177 billion by 2026.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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TPG’s Bill McGlashan is put on indefinite leave after being charged in a giant college admissions cheating scandal

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Drama, TC, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Bill McGlashan, who built his career as a top investor at the private equity firm TPG, has been put on “indefinite administrative leave, effective immediately,” says the firm after McGlashan was caught up in what the Justice Department said today is the largest college admissions scandal it has ever prosecuted.

McGlashan is among 49 others accused of participating in a bribery ring involving parents, admissions counselors, and athletic coaches at Yale, Wake Forest, and the University of Southern California (USC), among other institutions, in an effort to secure spots for their children at the schools.

“As a result of the charges of personal misconduct” against McGlashan, said the firm just now, Jim Coulter, Co-CEO of TPG, will be “interim managing partner” of the parts of TPG that McGlashan oversees, including TPG Growth and The Rise Fund.

“Mr. Coulter will, in partnership with the organization’s executive team, lead all investment work for both going forward,” according to a statement sent us just now by the firm.

McGlashan, who joined the private equity giant TPG in 2003, first to rethink and lead its earlier-stage strategy and, in more recent years, to lead its social impact strategy under the Rise Fund brand, is one of 33 parents being accused of trying to buy their kids’ admission. Others include actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

For McGlashan especially, whose job is ostensibly to make a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact, the charges are particularly damning, highlighting as they do how wealthy families sometimes use their financial muscle in socially unjust ways — in this case, paying to secure spots at colleges and depriving deserving students of admission in the process.

Indeed, TPG seemingly had little choice but separating from McGlashan, at least for now. In making its case against McGlashan and the others, the Justice Department has laid bare each party’s alleged wrongdoings with painstaking specificity. For his part, McGlashan has been charged with both participating in a college entrance exam cheating scheme and recruitment scheme, including by trying to bribe the senior athletic director at USC, and by paying test center administrators willing to accept bribes to give his oldest son more time to take a college entrance exam than is usually allotted students and in a special test center where his answers would be corrected after he had completed the test (unbeknownst to him).

McGlashan also allegedly signed-off on plans to doctor a photo that would make McGlashan’s son look like a football recruit and, as McGlashan was told, thus more desirable to the specialty program in arts, technology and business at USC that his son hoped to attend.

This wasn’t all theoretical. According to the Justice Department, after McGlashan’s son took the test in Florida and after the proctor corrected his answers to produce a score of 34 out of 36, it was provided as part of his application to Northeastern University in Boston.

Worse for McGlashan, according to the Justice Department’s complaint, McGlashan discussed with these outside parties repeating the ACT cheating scheme for his two younger children, and parts of these conversations were recorded via a court-authorized wiretap. Here’s just one outtake of many with a participant turned cooperating witness (identified as CW-1):

McGLASHAN: One other, just family question, with [my younger son] now entering his sophomore year, and sort of, the process is beginning, we have him on time and a half. I told [my spouse] yesterday, and [my daughter] by the way, who is the, who I think is the one who needs the most time, has no extra time currently. And [my spouse] is talking to the doctor that assessed them, to get her to ask, to request time for [my daughter]. I told her she should be requesting double time for all of them.

CW-1: 100% multiple days. No matter what, multiple days. So, even if it’s 50%, time and a half, multiple days.

McGLASHAN: So is that a different ask to get multiple days versus–

CW-1: Well the 100%.

McGLASHAN: And if they get time and a half, can they use your facility to take the test?

CW-1: No, not unless it’s multiple days.

McGLASHAN: So as long as it’s multiple days, we’re in.

CW-1: Correct, correct. Like it could be–

McGLASHAN: And they, that’s a separate filing?

CW-1: Overall it’s the same. Well, so, you’re saying [your younger son’s] got a, time and a half?

McGLASHAN: Yeah.

CW-1: So, what has to happen, is there has to be an appeal to get the multiple days. The doc’s got to come up with stuff, discrepancies, to show why he needs multiple days. That he can’t sit six and a half hours taking one test.

McGLASHAN: Perfect.

CW-1: And so if he gets multiple days, then I can control the center.

McGLASHAN: Thank you.

During the call, McGlashan tries to ensure that his son won’t know that his scores have been tampered with, or the degree to which McGlashan has inserted himself into the process.

McGLASHAN: Now does he, here’s the only question, does he know? Is there a way to do it in a way that he doesn’t know that happened?

CW-1: Oh yeah. Oh he–

McGLASHAN: Great.

CW-1: What he would know is, that I’m going to take his stuff, and I’m going to get him some help, okay?

McGLASHAN: So that, that he would have no issue with. You lobbying for him. You helping use your network. No issue.

CW-1: That letter, that letter comes to you.

McGLASHAN: Yup.

CW-1: So, my families want to know this is done.

McGLASHAN: Yup.

Somewhat unbelievably, the cooperating witness goes on to explain that to take advantage of a “side door” that could further strengthen the odds that McGlashan’s son will be accepted at USC, he will need to create a fake athletic profile for McGlashan’s son, which he says he has done “a million times” for other families. As remarkably, after McGlashan tells him that his family has images of the teenager playing lacrosse and is told by the cooperating witness that USC doesn’t have a lacrosse team, McGlashan is told that a picture of his son “doing something” – – anything vaguely sporty, on other words – – will “be fine.”

CW-1: I have to do a profile for him in a sport, which is fine, I’ll create it. You know, I just need him– I’ll pick a sport and we’ll do a picture of him, or he can, we’ll put his face on the picture whatever. Just so that he plays whatever. I’ve already done that a million times. So–

McGLASHAN: Well, we have images of him in lacrosse. I don’t know if that matters.

CW-1: They don’t have a lacrosse team. But as long as I can see him doing something, that would be fine.

McGLASHAN: Yeah.

CW-1: And then what happens is, then what you have to do, because this would be a specialty program, is that you have to then talk to the department and say, “Hey listen, can you take him in the department? We’ve gotten him accepted into the university.”

McGLASHAN: Yup. Well I can handle, I think I, I mean, I’ll know after this lunch. I think I can handle them at Iovine and Young.

CW-1: Right.

McGLASHAN: Yeah. Which is where he really wants to go.

CW-1: Right. So you’re saying, “Hey listen, I think I can get him into this school.”

McGLASHAN: Yup.

CW-1: Now, now, can you, ’cause they’re going to come to you and say, this is a selective program, would you want this kid? And he’s quote an “athlete” who’s coming to you. In fact, would you take him? And the department says yes.

McGLASHAN: Now, would he see that, ’cause that, he’s going to be fairly well seen at the school, because half the board knows me, and I’m going to be sort of 64 calling in and asking people to help, you know [Board Member 1] and [Board Member 2], and all those guys?

CW-1: But, so– what I would suggest is, have you called them? Any of them yet?

McGLASHAN: No.

CW-1: Good, don’t.

McGLASHAN: Okay.

CW-1: Because you don’t need, because when this, the way this, the quieter it, the quieter this is, the better it is, so people don’t say, “Well, okay, this guy, why are all these people calling us? The kid’s already been accepted. He’s coming here as an athlete. He’s already in.” What you just want is, the person you’re meeting with on Friday to say, you know, what we want [is] this kid.

McGLASHAN: So he doesn’t have to know how he got in. Is that the case?

CW-1: What I would say to him, if you want to have that discussion now with [your son] there, that we have friends in athletics, they are going to help us, because [he] is an athlete, and they’re going to help us. From the–

McGLASHAN: But I can’t say that in front of [my son], ’cause he knows he’s not.

CW-1: No, no, right.

McGLASHAN: Yeah.

CW-1: And just say, you know what, we’re going to get, we’re going to get some, we’re going to get people to help us.

McGLASHAN: Why wouldn’t, why wouldn’t I say, “Look, leave it to me to worry about getting him in, ’cause I have a lot of friends involved in the school.”

CW-1: Perfect, perfect. 

Ultimately, McGlashan shelled out more than $250,000 in the scheme, money that may wind up costing McGlashan much more.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Andreessen Horowitz is making the move to San Francisco at long last

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Andreessen Horowitz, TC, Venture Capital | 0 comments

One of the last top-tier venture firms to resist coming to San Francisco has apparently decided that it’s time to make the move. According to a source familiar with the thinking of Andreessen Horowitz, the firm is opening a San Francisco office later this year.

The WSJ had reported on Friday that the firm has signed a leasing agreement to move into 180 Townsend Street in the city’s China Basin neighborhood, not far from where the San Francisco Giants play baseball. (The park was known until January as AT&T Park; it has since been renamed Oracle Park.)

Our source says that the firm will not be shuttering its expansive offices on Sand Hill Road, where it set up shop immediately after opening for business in 2009. This person adds that a16z, as the firm is known, doesn’t plan to rent out an entire building. (Worth noting: 180 Townsend features more than 41,000 square feet.)

The move is notable, even amid a years-long trend of Silicon Valley venture capital firms that have opened offices in San Francisco and, in doing so, shifted the industry’s center of gravity 45 minutes north.

True Ventures was among the earliest venture firms to come to the city, originally setting up operations along the city’s waterfront and later moving its office to the popular South Park neighborhood, which is also now home to Kleiner Perkins, Accel, General Catalyst and New Enterprise Associates, among others.

Firms have also turned to the city’s Jackson Square neighborhood, roughly 1.5 miles away, on the other side of San Francisco’s financial district. Among those tenants: Jackson Square Ventures, NextWorld Capital, Catamount Ventures and Sway Ventures.

Andreessen Horowitz has long seemed happy to exclusively operate out of Menlo Park, not opening another regional office, and not entertaining the idea of opening a New York office, even as many of its peers were doing so years ago.

Our source says the firm began thinking more seriously about opening a second space in San Francisco at least a year ago before more recently deciding to pull the trigger. Undoubtedly, it will ease a long commute for some of its 150 employees, many of whom live in the city and will be dividing their time between both offices once its San Francisco location opens.

Clearly, the firm also wants to get closer to the founders it works with — and wants to work with — many of whom also prefer San Francisco to sleepier, if less crowded, parts south.

Leasing commercial space in San Francisco is as pricey as it has ever been. As the WSJ noted, citing data from the real estate group Cushman & Wakefield, office rent in San Francisco reached a record $75.57 per square foot in the fourth quarter of 2018, up 6.4 percent from the same period in 2017.

In addition to Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator looks likely to move to San Francisco this year; as we reported last week, the investment firm and accelerator program is currently searching for the right space to set up shop.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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This VC went long on HotelTonight and it paid off; here’s how.

Posted by on Mar 10, 2019 in Accel Partners, battery ventures, brian omalley, forerunner ventures, HotelTonight, TC, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Brian O’Malley has enjoyed a lot of success as a venture capitalist, thanks to bets on Bazaarvoice before its IPO, Dollar Shave Club before it was nabbed by Unilever, and a variety of other startups that were ultimately acquired or went public. It’s one reason that O’Malley, who began his venture career with Battery Ventures and stayed for nearly a decade, has been poached time and again, first joining Accel Partners for almost five years and, more recently, hopping over to Forerunner Ventures.

Interestingly, all three firms are investors in one company that O’Malley has known from nearly its outset and whose cash and stock sale for a reported $465 million to Airbnb, announced last week, he is still celebrating: HotelTonight, “The O’Malley family went long on HotelTonight,” he said in a call Thursday. “Now, we’re long Airbnb.”

For your Sunday reading, we thought you might enjoy an oral history from O’Malley about how he stumbled upon HotelTonight and remained connected to the company across its nine year history.

I’d originally met Sam [Shank HotelTonight’s CEO] way back. He had TravelPost,com, a travel blogging platform. I really liked him, but i didn’t think it was a ‘venture fundable’ company, [meaning I didn’t see] an explosive opportunity. But Sam is the kind of guy you file away in the back of your head. I knew I’d like to work with him sometime.

Then, I think it was the last week of 2010, I was at home reading up on new things and I came cross this announcement about this new thing called HotelTonight. I was looking at mobile services at the time. We [at Battery Ventures] were invested in Groupon and we saw how much customers loved this whole last-minute-deal angle. But it was hard for Groupon to [drill deep] across categories, given that merchant needs are different. The industry needed verticalized [players] and [HotelTonight] fit nicely in that sweet spot, so I did a little digging, and lo and behold, it was Sam Shank and his partner Jared [Simon] behind the company. I reached back out to Sam and said, ‘This is a great idea; I’d love to catch up with you.’

They were [running a company called] Dealbase [that aggregated and compared hotel deals] and HotelTonight was their mobile offering, so I got together with him and we set it up in a way where we wrote a [letter of intent to Dealbase’s angel investors] to spin HotelTonight out of Dealbase and make it its own company. But to do that, we wanted not just the technology but the team.

They had pretty well-known angels, so I went and talked with them, and some of them were not very excited about having the team go to this new company, so we set up this structure where Dealbase shareholders would get 50 percent of HotelTonight if they came over, and if they didn’t want to come over, we’d buy their shares. I think all of them came over eventually, though some were more curmudgeonly about it. Hopefully they appreciate it now! Then we put together a large option pool for the team and put together a syndicate, including myself at Battery, Theresia [Gouw] when she was at Accel, Kent Goldman [then of First Round Capital], and Kirsten [Green, the founder of Forerunner Ventures] was a small investor as well. And that’s what helped start the company.

At the time, I was one of the first customers, and I remember checking into one of their hotels in New York, and the hotel had never heard of HotelTonight but there on the fax machine was my booking reservation; that was the technology that was available at the time.

Then we [at Battery] led the Series A, we split it with Accel. I was already on the board from the seed round, then Theresia joined the board at the Series A.

When I left Battery [to join Accel] it was the smoothest transition. When you leave a firm, you leave behind [your companies]; your investments belong to the fund and not to you. But this was more seamless because Theresia was transitioning out of Accel [to start her own firm, Aspect Ventures] around the time that I was joining. So I think I was off the [HotelTonight] board for about a month. Then I took Theresia’s seat at Accel and [longtime Battery investor] Roger Lee went on my seat. Then at Accel, we led HotelTonight’s last round of financing.

It’s kind of serendipitous that all three firms where I’ve worked were shareholders.

[As for the outcome of the company], we’d talked about an IPO a while ago. It was growing really quickly. It’s a large business now with well over a hundred million [dollars] in [annual] revenue. It’s profitable. It has a lot of the characteristics you’d want. And they’d been approached by a variety of partners over time. But Sam and [Airbnb CEO] Brian [Chesky] have a special relationship. They’d known each other since even before HotelTonight.

And it’s great when you can clearly fill a void, and continue your mission under a bigger umbrella. Airbnb is rapidly growing a good business. It has done a great job of winning the hearts and minds of customers. But it had a gap in that it hadn’t focused on hotels and last-minute travelers, and it gets a lot of interest in those areas, so we thought the companies culturally would really complement each other, but also that the products would complement each other.

Decisions are always led by the team, and this is one where they were really excited about it, and we were super supportive of that. It’s the funny thing about all these deals, though. Yes, you can get a banker like Qatalyst [Partners] involved.  But a lot of it comes back to relationships.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Voatz, the blockchain-based voting app, gets another vote of confidence as Denver agrees to try it

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in blockchain, mobile voting, TC, voatz, voting | 0 comments

A controversial blockchain-based mobile voting app called Voatz is getting put to the test again.

The city of Denver revealed today that it has agreed to implement a mobile voting pilot in its May municipal election using the four-year-old, Boston-based startup’s technology. It will be offered exclusively to active-duty military, their eligible dependants and overseas voters using their smartphones.

All were notified that they can use Voatz via a newsletter this morning, along with a link to sign up to participate if they so choose.

Voatz — which had raised $2.2 million in funding led by the venture arm of Overstock.com last year — says it has conducted more than 30 successful pilots already. Two of these in West Virginia attracted the financial backing of Tusk Philanthropies, the philanthropic operation of investor, operator and strategist Bradley Tusk, who was featured last year in The New Yorker for his involvement in both efforts.

One was a small pilot project in West Virginia that gave overseas citizens and members of the military stationed abroad access to Voatz to cast ballots on their phones, though it was open only to residents of two counties. The technology was put to the test again in last November’s mid-term elections, in which nearly 150 people voted from 24 out of the state’s 55 counties.

We talked with Tusk in early December about both efforts and about Voatz more generally, which Tusk hasn’t funded but whose mission of enabling more people to vote, more easily, he aggressively advocates. Though mobile voting, blockchain-based apps and Voatz in particular have been criticized as potentially vulnerable to hacking, Tusk spent the first 20 years of his career in politics, and in his view, unless more people are empowered to “advocate politically” from their phones, politicians will continue to respond to the far smaller number of voters who actually show up at the polls.

Tusk also believes Voatz works, having hired outside examiners to assess the first West Virginia pilot, including Andre McGregor, a former FBI cyber special agent who is now the global head of security for TLDR, a company that specializes in blockchain technology. It may explain why, in partnering with the city of Denver and the National Cybersecurity Center, a federal agency that was created as an office within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security back in 2008, Tusk Philanthropies again invited Voatz as a partner in Denver’s mobile voting endeavor. (A spokesperson for Tusk Philanthropies tells us that Colorado has also explored developing an open-source mobile voting platform but that it simply doesn’t exist yet.)

Certainly, it’s conceivable that Voatz is no less secure than existing options for overseas military personnel, who often submit their votes via email. With Voatz, ballots are transmitted between up to 32 “permissioned” computers that have to agree algorithmically that a ballot is legitimate before it gets recorded and counted, and this only after a voter has been identified through numerous other steps. Among these: a voter must provide a phone number and an eight-digit pin and submit a photo of his or her driver’s license. The voter must then they shoot and submit a video of their face, which is then processed by facial recognition technology that can confirm (or not confirm) that the face in the video belongs to the same person registered as a state voter.

To assuage any lingering concerns, the city of Denver will additionally conduct its own audit. Meanwhile, Tusk Philanthropies will work with a cybersecurity partner ShiftState to conduct an independent audit, in addition to the internal audit done by of Voatz.

The city of Denver says that 4,000 international voters are eligible to use the app.

Interestingly, despite the efficiencies Voatz promises, the voting process still won’t be an easy one. Fully 65 candidates have tossed their hats in the ring for public offices, according go the region’s city magazine, 5280. And while far-flung military personnel may be using a blockchain-based app, the placement of each mayoral candidate on the ballot will be determined in decidedly old-school fashion — by drawing their names out of a bingo-ball turner.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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