The World Bank considers backing Learn Capital's new emerging markets fund

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on May 19, 2014

From The News Desk

wbThe world is waking up to the lucrative rewards afforded by edtech startups. Specifically, the World Bank has woken up to the possibilities.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the independent private sector investment arm of the World Bank, is reportedly mulling a proposal to invest $20 million in San Francisco based, education-focused VC firm Learn Capital. The $100-$150 “Education Innovation Fund” will focus on funding early to mid stage edtech startups that serve or are based in emerging markets, especially in Latin America.

This fits squarely with IFC’s investment vision, which is to “End extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity—in every developing country.”

IFC would serve as the anchor LP. It selected Learn Capital as the proposed recipient of the $20 million after considering 50 other potential GPs. Based on the Summary of Investment Information (SII), which discloses the social and environmental risks that such a fund could entail, the “Education Innovation Fund” would primarily focus on investing in software and online platforms for educational content. However, if the opportunity arose, the EIF could also invest in construction of physical schools.

Tim Brady, Founder of the nation’s first ed-tech incubator Imagine K12, welcomed the news. “When you look at the emerging markets there's a huge opportunity to go from nothing to something,” Brady says. “They have no infrastructure. So in the past they had this huge hurdle, we’ve got to build a school before we do anything. But some of these new technologies require any size class they want — all you need is a smart phone.”

In other words, the challenge that such a fund would tackle is scaling education for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Learn Capital is one of the most active Bay Area VC firms focused on education technology. It manages four funds to the pretty tune of $78 million, with corporate behemoth Pearson as one of its backers. Some of its better known investments include Edmodo, EdSurge, Coursera, BrightBytes, Udemy, and ClassDojo.

Even if granted the $20 million cash infusion from the World Bank, Learn Capital would still need to close $80-$130 million from other LPs for its proposed emerging worlds fund. Given the money flowing into the sector of late, that could prove to be a simple task.