K-12 Dealmaking: Company Focused on After-School and Summer Enrichment Attracts $18M in VC Funding

Staff Writer
K-12 dealmaking

A newly rebranded company providing after-school and summer enrichment programs has raised $18 million from investors and hired a former Princeton Review and Tutor.com executive to lead its relaunch and raise venture capital.

The organization, Brains and Motion, was founded in 2018. Its investors, including New Markets Venture Partners, LearnStart, Sand Hill Angels, Women’s Venture Capital Fund, JFFVentures, and Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator have put a total of $18 million of previously undisclosed funding into the company.

The $18 million is a combination of funding raised in the last few years which hadn’t been previously announced and new funding that has closed within the last few weeks, said Bart Epstein, the new CEO of the company, in an interview. The vision is to create “a national brand that sets the standard for quality in after-school enrichment, structured recess, and summer camps,” he said.

Brains and Motion offers enrichment experiences that include athletic, team-based experiences, as well as project-based STEAM programs. Epstein said the organization works with schools and districts to offer programs that meet their needs. It also can work with  third-party service providers to offer additional programs in addition to the Brains and Motion curriculum.

The company has served more than 1,100 schools so far, Epstein said, serving about 93,000 students. It’s focused on regions that include San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Chicago, Boston, Denver, and Seattle.

After spending his career focused largely on what students learn during the school day, Epstein said he was drawn to the enrichment space because it offered more flexibility and greater options to work with students, compared to packed, highly prescribed school days.

“Making change from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. is extremely difficult,” he said, noting the limits placed on educators from federal, state, and local policies, as well as district and schoolwide regulations and procedures.

After-school hours are the “golden hours” where there is more room to have a significant impact, he said.

When trying to decide how he can improve the learning of the highest number of students, Epstein said he realized focusing on after-school hours offers “a far better return on investment” compared to “trying to convince 1,000 schools to do something slightly different during the day,” given constrictions in the classroom.

After-school and summer programs offer students a chance to “discover their strengths, explore their interests, and connect the dots between disciplines in a safe, supportive, and fun environment,” Gerard Robinson, professor of practice at the University of Virginia’s school of leadership and public policy and former Virginia Secretary of Education, said in a statement.

Robinson sits on the board of Brains and Motion, along with New Markets Venture Partners’ Principal Juan Zavala; New Markets Venture Partners Operating Partner and former Princeton Review, Pearson, and Schoolnet executive Mark Chernis, and former 2U and Princeton Review Executive Rob Cohen.

Most of the current after-school and summer camp providers are “mom and pop” operations, Epstein said, or run by schools themselves. Epstein estimates there are more than 40,000 providers in the market, with no one provider having more than 2 percent market share. Some local providers are “fantastic” he said, but others are such small operations that they can often shut down if a leader moves away or isn’t able to continue running it.

After-school offers “golden hours” when organizations have great freedom to positively affect students’ academic and social-emotional development, says Brains and Motion’s CEO.

He believes districts are looking for a more reliable offering that keeps students engaged — and that many don’t want to be in the business of operating the program themselves.

“This is a space where there’s tremendous demand and an opportunity to solve multiple problems at once,” Epstein said.

Brains and Motion also offers structured recess, which Epstein sees as a burgeoning product niche. In many schools, students spend recess on their phones, often standing on blacktop surfaces, and teachers and staff may be too short on time to oversee activities.

Structured recess gets students engaged in games and activities to keep them socializing and off their devices, he said, and the program is designed to help them learn social skills that many missed out on while learning remotely during the pandemic.

“A lot of kids are having behavior problems. They don’t know how to share. They don’t know how to be a good teammate,” he said. “There’s a lot of arguing and fighting on playgrounds, and teachers are overwhelmed, exhausted, and asked to do a million things. They don’t have the time or energy to go out on the playground to organize games and drills.”

Wayside Publishing Acquires Nualang. Wayside Publishing, a provider of world language textbooks and online courses, has acquired Nualang, a language learning product focused on speaking and pronunciation.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Wayside said the deal will allow the company to expand its current ed-tech offerings, and that it  “represents a significant investment in advancing language education,” its CEO, Meg Gorden, said in a statement.

Nualang’s tools, which use chatbots to help students practice speaking languages, will be integrated into Wayside Publishing’s existing language learning solutions, she added.

With Nualang based in both New York and Dublin, Gorden said the deal will open up new business opportunities domestically and internationally, and reaffirms Wayside’s “commitment to becoming a leading ed-tech entity.”

Gorden, previously vice president of technology and operations, was promoted to CEO in February.

The integration of Nualang into Wayside’s Learning Site tool will “empower educators and students with engaging language learning experiences,” Nualang CEO Greg Cawley said in a statement. “With Wayside’s acquisition of Nualang, we are ready to reach new heights in innovation and impact.”

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Image by Getty.

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