AltSchool, a six-year-old startup founded by ex-Googler Max Ventilla, has announced a major shakeup. Ventilla, 39, is stepping down as CEO and becoming chairman of the renamed Altitude Learning. That company will continue to sell AltSchool’s edtech product, software that helps K-12 teachers make assignments and track student progress.
As of September, AltSchool will no longer run its four for-profit schools, two in San Francisco and two in New York City. It’s turning them over to another startup, three-year-old angel-backed Higher Ground Education. Based in Lake Forest, California, Higher Ground provides services to Montessori schools. A total of 240 students, including 2 of Ventilla’s children, attended AltSchool’s campuses this year.
In a January feature story, Forbes described Ventilla’s big ambitions for San Francisco-based AltSchool. He had raised a war chest of $174 million in venture cash from Mark Zuckerberg and from Silicon Valley investment vehicles backed by billionaires Peter Thiel, Laurene Powell Jobs, Pierre Omidyar and Marc Andreessen.
Ventilla’s pitch: AltSchool would run a network of private schools that had a “personalized learning” approach, where students were encouraged to work independently and at their own pace on assignments tailored to their interests and strengths. Students would be guinea pigs for the software platform AltSchool was developing and aiming to sell to both public and private schools.
But AltSchool had problems from the start. Early on, Ventilla scotched plans to franchise schools across the country. In San Francisco, Palo Alto and New York, he opened schools and then closed them, forcing parents to find new spots for their children. In Palo Alto, an AltSchool with 62 students was taken over by a new company and families had to make tough choices about whether to stay or go.
Though AltSchool spent $30 million a year on the schools and the software, it was slow to sell its tech product. It charged as much as $150 per student per year for the software while schools could get similar software for free or for just $10 from competitors. Last year AltSchool’s revenue came to only $7 million. A company spokesperson told the publication EdSurge, which covers edtech, that it would announce new pricing in the fall.
In an unscripted moment, Ventilla told Forbes, “We might not be around in five years.” AltSchool barely lasted five more months.
Original Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2019/07/01/zuckerberg-backed-altschool-gives-up-on-schools-and-focuses-on-tech/#f46208e1c5b1