The ‘Education’ of a lifelong VC
For years, the education market was persona non-grata for many in the venture capital community including myself. After 20 years of investing, it was difficult for me to understand the desire to deal with school administration, long sales cycles, difficult installations and (gasp) budget cycles. Then I met Tory Patterson and his partner Amit Patel who taught me why investing in educating, protecting and helping students at all levels was not just good for the world, it can create venture returns.
I won’t bore you with the Owl VC pitch but it’s a great one — in the last decade, trends like internet and mobile device penetration at educational institutions, cloud services, consumer and enterprise demand to pull education into this generation of technical advancement was happening at an exponential rate. We became so convinced that Owl’s first office became Defy’s first office — we were both hatched in the Pioneer Hotel in Woodside because the karma was so strong. We then proceeded to hound the Owl team for their best deals until Amit introduced us to a seed they had led in a company called Securly, just prior to the team going out to market. We loved the team’s passion for keeping kids safe, allowing them to work remotely, and caring about the importance of a child’s mental health. Convinced of the team’s caliber and uniqueness of their approach to solving a real problem, we wouldn’t let the team leave until they had a term sheet in their hand. We got to a deal within 24 hours; keeping them from going out to run a large capital raise process. From that initial investment, the team educated us on how the cloud could change the ability of platforms, like Securly, to scale. Rather than adverse reactions from schools, administrators and teachers became champions and advocates for new technology like Securly; as improving the health and lives of every student is their priority. Securly embodies the positive impact great investments in education can make on the world and even save children’s lives. This mission is what drove the amazing, thoughtful and caring team and their co-founder and CEO, Bharath Madhusudan.
We learned so much through our investment in Securly that it is with somewhat tempered excitement that we are proud to announce the acquisition of the company by Golden Gate Capital, a private equity fund with more than $15bln under management. Securly was our largest investment in Defy I and provides a significant return of capital to our amazing investors who are mostly endowments, foundations, and nonprofits. Our limited partners truly understand the importance of student safety by living and breathing the morals and values that make Securly great. We know GGC and the team at Securly will continue to grow, scale, and expand its mission and will only become a stronger and better company for years to come. I am sad to no longer work with Bharath, Luis, Rich, Scott, Alpana and Anders on a daily basis but look forward to years of collaborating in the future. Our team at Defy is thankful to our partners like Amit and Tory and the entire Securly community of districts, schools, administrators, teachers, and students who made this company successful. We learned that education is an important area of innovation and can make a hugely positive impact on the world which led us to our largest investment in Defy II: HonorLock and their team which we are also excited about on a number of fronts. This education led me to see how technology combined with motivated people can make all the difference and caused me to join the Woodside Unified school district board as a trustee in November 2020. A lot of VCs still think education is a hard place to invest but Securly has educated us and we are excited about the opportunities ahead. We hope all of our investments can help make the world a better place the way Securly does — thanks to the team who made it happen — we appreciate the education and congratulations!
Neil and the Defy team