Bookmarked AltSchool’s out: Zuckerberg-backed startup that tried to rethink education calls it quits (

A San Francisco startup that tried to reinvent school is handing off operations of its schools and turning into a software company.

Melia Russell reports on the further closure of AltSchool, however it will continue as software. This all makes you wonder if this was the intent from the beginning?
Bookmarked Can AltSchool—The Edtech Startup With $174M From Billionaires Like Zuckerberg And Thiel—Save Itself From Failure? by an author (Forbes)

Founded by ex-Googler Max Ventilla, AltSchool has been burning cash in a failed attempt to create a profitable private school network and fighting to sell an expensive edtech product in a crowded field.

This is a fascinating look at the hype and promise surrounding AltSchool. I know schools change over time, but it must be an odd space to be in somewhere that is so open about adapting and evolving much of what it does. The story of investment in Venilla’s vague outline has me thinking about Audrey Watters’ post about interconnected nature of technology investment. This is a useful read alongside Ben Williamson’s Big Data in Education.


But as Ventilla admits when he lets his guard down, reaching profitability will be quite a stretch. The story of how AltSchool arrived at this point—burning cash in a failed attempt to create a profitable private-school network and fighting to sell an expensive edtech product in a crowded field—shows that the best intentions, an impressive career in tech and an excess of Silicon Valley money and enthusiasm don’t easily translate into success in a tradition-bound marketplace where budgets are tight.

efore starting AltSchool, Ventilla says, he read two dozen books on education and emerged a fan of Sir Ken Robinson, a British TED Talk speaker known for lamenting the dearth of creativity in early education, and Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and the winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant who has written about the need for children to cultivate “grit.” The quality of primary and secondary education in America, stuck in an industrial-age model, has been in steady decline for the last century, says Ventilla, citing the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, a worldwide test of reading, math and science ability in which U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 38th out of 71 countries.

Though Ventilla’s business plan was no more than a vague outline, he was a Silicon Valley insider, and investors bought in. “He was talking about a shift from a lecture-based model of education to a learner-centric model,” says First Round Capital partner Josh Kopelman, who sits on AltSchool’s board. “That made total sense to us.”

via Audrey Watters