Runway Incubator | The Innovation Blog

Investing with a focus on education

Posted by Joe Vasquez on Jan 4, 2016 4:45:02 PM

Matt WaltersI hope everyone had a happy new year! It’s been a quiet couple of weeks at Runway during the holiday season, and as people return from their holiday travels, we’re excited to see old faces.


We’re gearing up to launch our edtech accelerator this quarter and have been talking about what type of companies we’re excited about investing in. We’re targeting two segments: higher ed (tertiary education) and lifelong learning (alternative education). We love these segments because they directly influence employment opportunities for the majority of the population. We’re specifically interested in tools that help minorities and underserved populations for whom education is the key to breaking a cycle of poverty and unemployment.


There are a few problems to tackle here. The first is getting traditionally underserved populations into schools where they can receive the education they need. Once these students are in higher education, we want to make sure they stay engaged in the classroom and receive the support they need to master the skills and subjects being taught. Students from lower socioeconomic levels are the most vulnerable to dropping out. Being highly engaged in the classroom is one of the best ways to ensure students are taking control of their education and staying in school. Finally, we want to make sure that after graduation, students are finding the jobs they need and believed they would receive when they first enrolled. So we’re focused on startups that are improving KPIs in these areas. We also think that alternative education is a great avenue to pursue these goals. Some traditional high ed institutions can be too focused on formulaic structures and methods for teaching that are based on centuries old models and that don’t put student needs first. Many alternative education models are focused on breaking these molds and putting student learning and outcome based education first.

We think that there is room for both traditional educational institutions and alternative education models in the higher ed and adult learning space. And we’re looking for companies that are seeking to make improvements in both methods of education, with student outcomes in mind. We are talking more about what our specific investment thesis will be in investing in these segments, but I thought I would share our thoughts as we get ready for a busy 2016.  

Joe Vasquez

Written by Joe Vasquez

Joe has a passion for helping entrepreneurs and corporations to innovate. He was an early co-founder of StartX, an accelerator for Stanford entrepreneurs. Prior to joining Runway, Joe taught at the Kauffman Fellows Academy and was a Data Analyst Fellow at LocoMotive Labs. Joe started his career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and spent two years teaching bilingual math with Teach For America. Joe holds a BS in Atmosphere & Energy Engineering from Stanford University.

Topics: Business