Chris Bennett, CEO of Wonderschool, and I have been linked together since 2004, when we both attended U Penn. My first vivid memory of Chris was of him walking through the Penn dormitories with a huge shopping cart (not sure how he snuck it past security…), knocking on doors asking if students were willing to sell him their used textbooks. This was part of his own textbook selling business venture called Liquidbooks. The shopping cart filled quickly.
At the time, I had a similar venture called CampusDock. Chris helped me reconsider the way I thought about the business. In 2010, we moved to San Francisco within a month of one another and from then on our startup journeys were linked. We snuck into industry events we had no business attending and traded notes on the ecosystem. In 2011, we started companies around the same time and frequently met up to chat as we were running our companies.
Chris discovered that his first startup wasn’t going to be a venture scale opportunity a few years in. After growing quickly, they churned through customers. Chris found he needed to lay off most of the team and find a new focus. I was amazed how he bounced back from the experience, and asked him how he did it.
At first, he seemed a little confused by the question. Finally, he quietly said, “Because I know eventually I will succeed.” From then on, I believed the same thing. When I became an investor, my fund Edelweiss invested in the first round of financing for Wonderschool and every round since.
When Chris told me the idea for Wonderschool, I immediately loved it. Wonderschool helps educators start preschools in their homes, drastically increasing their income (by 2.3x for the median teacher) while providing parents and their children with much-needed quality childcare options. I have always been drawn to businesses that help people, and it was clear to me that Wonderschool has the potential to change lives.
Over the past 2 years I have seen firsthand Chris, Arrel and my wonderful wife Rebecca (1st employee at Wonderschool) tirelessly focus on providing educators the resources and knowhow to run their own business. A few months ago, I visited Little Nest, a school in L.A, and I was blown away by the quality of program that Theresa and her husband Joey were running. I loved hearing the story of how Theresa decided to leave her job at a prominent Montessori preschool so she could start her own school and teach her daughter. Theresa and Joey had just finished the licensing process when they met the Wonderschool team. They gushed about how helpful Wonderschool had been in helping them achieve their goals and dreams for building their school.
Today, I am excited that Wonderschools is announcing a $20M series A investment from Jeff Jordan of A16Z. It is clear to me that Jeff’s background at Ebay and Opentable lends itself perfectly to Wondershool, and I am excited to continue to watch the company grow.