Before our conversation on Extra Crunch Live, Marlon Nichols dropped a bomb on me. The MaC Venture Capital founding managing partner hadn’t actually seen Wonderschool’s original pitch deck before investing in the remote education startup. Our conversation with the company’s CEO, Chris Bennett was the first time he’d been through the seed-stage deck.
Their partnership was a bit of Silicon Valley luck, good timing and some old fashioned networking.
“He was a part of an organization that was helping to bring more diverse founders in touch with investors,” says Nichols. “That was happening when I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011. We started to build a casual relationship then. Fast forward to 2016. At my first fund, Cross Culture [Ventures], we were interested in investing in early childhood care. We were actually looking at a number of different companies and one of my partners, Suzy [Ryoo] was like, ‘Have you heard of this company Wonderschool that Chris Bennett was starting, and I was like, ‘Holy shit, I know Chris.’ ”
According to Bennet, Nichols reached out about the opportunity on Facebook Messenger. After the initial conversation and assessing some direct competitors, Nichols says Wonderschool was ultimately the right fit for Cross Culture’s portfolio.
Fittingly, the startup’s origin also has its roots in SV networking.
“I used to go the TED conference every year,” says Bennett. “I met a woman who told me that early childhood education was really important [ … ] She said, ‘A lot of the skills I use today as a CEO, a lot of those seeds were planted before the age of five.’ I thought that was a really wild idea. I started doing research and realized there was a shortage of childcare in America.”
Bennett cringed slightly when we started the process of showing off the company’s early deck. The first thing that jumped out at all of us was just how bare bones the presentation is: white text on a blue background, largely made up of bullet points. There’s not flash — or even graphics — to be found in the entire thing. And the CEO adds that honestly, not much changed aesthetically between that first pitch and the Series A deck.
“It aligned with what we were valuing at the time,” says Bennett. “We were really focused on getting the product-market fit and really trying to understand what our customers needed. And we’re really focused on building the team.”
Perhaps there was something to it, however, as Wonderschool managed to raise $20 million for the latter.