Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Thanksgiving, no matter if or how you gather for it, triggers the emotion and thought of gratitude. To all of you, please know how grateful we are for the opportunity to work together. “It’s a lot.” This is how we have heard so many of you describe the complexity and weight of what continues to be an extraordinary and challenging time. We are all processing and coping. But we hope that this long holiday weekend brought the needed opportunity for rest, fun, laughter, and joy.
Against that backdrop, we feel both a profound sense of humility and urgency when it comes to catalyzing innovation across the education and workforce markets. Translating education into economic mobility, skills and experiences into new pathways to opportunity has never been more important. It will require fresh thinking and collaboration. It will require learning experiences that are more personalized and accessible, and institutions that are both durable and scalable.
As we continue to accumulate personal experiences from the disruptions brought forward by the lingering pandemic, it is our privilege and passion to identify opportunities and entrepreneurs to make an impact. In this letter, we are excited to share a few announcements and draw your attention to some new names and ideas.
Nishaad Balachandran was recently promoted to Vice President. Nishaad joined Avathon during the Summer of 2017 as an Associate and was promoted to Senior Associate in 2019. Along the way, he has contributed his energy and intellect to our thematic sourcing efforts, portfolio company strategy work, add-on acquisition research and financial analysis. Nishaad is a self-described global citizen and a passionate and determined business builder. We are proud of his achievements and congratulate him on this well-deserved promotion!
Our Associate Program is a two- or three-year training opportunity designed to provide a rich and immersive experience into the art and science of private equity investing and portfolio management. A few graduates of the program receive direct promotion to the Vice President level at the same or a peer firm, while many others go off to pursue careers in related fields, at portfolio companies, or head back to school in pursuit of an MBA.
We extend a bittersweet congratulations and farewell to Joe Shroyer who contributed significantly to our team during his two years at Avathon and wish him incredibly well in his next career pursuit.
Click here for more information on our Associate Program and candidate qualifications. We are hiring!
IT’S BEEN OUR HONOR
We were excited to be recognized as a top founder-friendly investor by Inc. Magazine. We partner with creative and passionate founders to further advance their organization’s purpose, foster innovation in the education and workforce markets, and drive positive outcomes.
RESEARCH-FIRST: SAFE-GUARDING OUR PLACES OF LEARNING AND WORK
We welcome Ken Naumann as our most recent Executive in Residence. We will be partnering with Ken to identify companies focused on the critical issues of data privacy, risk management and compliance across the education and workforce markets.
We believe that continued migration to the cloud, coupled with a growing reliance on digital platforms and applications, will unlock powerful opportunities in learning and work. But continued digitization has also created new vulnerabilities. We are now operating in a heightened threat environment with the growing prevalence of cyberattacks on schools, companies, and public sector organizations. New regulations are raising the stakes and creating new operational complexities and compliance challenges. Technologies that enhance security and risk management, while enabling a more frictionless user experience are critical.
Ken brings deep sector knowledge with 25+ years of experience in the compliance management and broader software technology fields. He has held numerous CEO and board-level positions for public, private equity, and venture-backed companies. Most recently, Ken served as Chairman and CEO of AccessData Group, Inc, a global software company specializing in computer forensics, incident response and electronic discovery.
Please reach out to Brian Schwartz to explore this thesis.
RESEARCH-FIRST: DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF HEALTHCARE WORKERS
We welcome Joe Wanninger as a strategic advisor focused on helping us advance our thesis work in the healthcare education and training sector. We will be partnering with Joe to identify proven companies that are delivering cutting-edge healthcare education and training solutions for individuals, higher education institutions and healthcare organizations.
The healthcare sector has long faced structural gaps between the demand for skilled professionals and the supply of trained graduates and individuals. An aging population coupled with an increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses due to expanding lifespans has necessitated a larger healthcare workforce with varied specialties and focus areas.
In addition, the half-life of skills in the healthcare sector continues to shrink as technology spurs new innovations and treatments and contributes to the growing need for continuing education and training. The global COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated these existing dynamics and has put a spotlight on the vital need for skilled healthcare professionals across the globe. Solutions (and companies) that can deliver relevant training and education across the lifecycle and career of a healthcare professional are needed now more than ever.
Joe brings decades of first-hand experience in the healthcare training and education sector along with a robust understanding of the nuanced needs and problems faced by the millions of adult learners in our country. He has held numerous positions as a revenue and growth leader at entrepreneurial organizations including as part of the founding team at Orbis Education. Most recently, Joe served as Chief Revenue Officer at Kenzie Academy, a hybrid short-form training provider focused on delivering technology skills training to adult learners.
Please reach out to Nishaad Balachandran to explore this thesis.
RESEARCH-FIRST: K-12 STUDENTS AND TEACHERS REQUIRE CRITICAL SUPPORT MORE THAN EVER
We welcome Janine Walker-Caffrey as a K-12 education strategic advisor. We will be partnering with Janine to identify digital curriculum companies that are helping to improve outcomes for students and districts, and to bolster our network of key decision-makers within schools and districts to better understand trends and pain points.
Educational disruptions over the last year, and resultant academic disparities, have fueled demand for resources that district and school leaders can put in the hands of educators, parents, and students to close endemic gaps. These vast disparities are focusing attention on the role of tools that support and enable educators to implement more personalized pedagogical strategies. They are focusing attention on the ways in which emergent technologies can professionalize the field by creating efficiencies that ease the burden on our nation’s teachers.
Janine Walker-Caffrey brings deep sector knowledge, with a career in education and ed-tech that spans over 37 years. Most recently, she served as the Chief Research Officer for Reading Plus, one of our prior K-12 investments. Prior to that, she held a variety of leadership roles at education technology companies, including CEO for Lexplore, Inc., which specializes in reading assessment using eye-tracking and AI. Janine is a career educator who has been a teacher, a school founder, principal, and a superintendent. She holds an Ed.D. in educational leadership and an MBA. Janine is also the author of two parenting books, which were inspired by her experiences raising her own two children
Please reach out to Shawn Domanic to explore this thesis.
We extend our congratulations to our friends at DreamBox Learning, former colleagues at Reading Plus and TPG Rise for their vision and leadership. DreamBox acquired our portfolio company, Reading Plus with the mission to invest in best-of-breed, dual-discipline offerings, strong data and analytics, and professional development services designed to support educators. We joined them on this journey as a roll-over investor and extend our congratulations after their recently announced majority recapitalization to Evergreen Coast Capital.
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season, and a prosperous New Year ahead!
The Avathon Capital Team