Michael is a problem solver. From his humble beginnings as a US History school teacher, he sought out to improve how his students learned. One of his first learnings himself? How he can't balance being a 'likable' school teacher and actually being effective at teaching. He ended up deciding it was better to be feared and respected by his students... and I agree. You just respect a professor or teacher more when they take their job seriously. :)
From there he built a startup and was eventually hired by another startup after the initial one went under. Moving from Texas to Palo Alto during the iPhone launch and the network growth of Facebook gave him lots of opportunities to be the premier ed-tech entrepreneur that everyone wants to have coffee with. I guess it's good to be #first! Because of his years as a public school teacher and his intuitive understanding of K12 education, Michael served as a Venture Partner and still serves as a Community Advisor to NewSchools Venture Fund’s EdTech Portfolio.
After sending Learn Capital tons of ed-tech deals, eventually, Learn Capital brought Michael on at an official capacity where he focuses on the decision pipeline of deals.
One of the things I wanted to know was why Michael has such a passion for the educational arena. From being a school teacher to now helping founders change the educational world, this is a space that clearly has a grip on his heart:
"I think education and entrepreneurship are the two biggest drivers of prosperity and have multiplier effects on everything else."Michael Staton | VCHunting S3E10
Going back in history a bit, I wanted to understand how Michael views education, and he did not disappoint. I loved how he has created quadrants and cross-sections of the educational world and how saying things like: "Education needs to be improved" aren't helpful. People need to understand the multiple segments that education envelops, and what we're seeing a lot of now are ed-tech startups that are focused on just a part of the larger pie. When people talk about education, what they're really talking about is an entire suite of services and applications. It is the job of innovators to find how to peel the onion and find the right value propositions or services that they can build.
Bringing up Danielle Strachman, who was also a guest on VCHunting, I was curious as to whether a deeply-networked guy like Michael knew her... turns out, she's an investor in his new startup colearn.club!
Colearn.Club is a place where Michael is trying to re-bundle many different types of services that homeschool parents need to effectively do homeschooling well. I loved this part of our conversation as Michael is back in the saddle creating solutions for a remote-first, mobile-first, video-first world. As we have entered into a whole new world of social distancing and zoom chats, people are seriously thinking about the option of homeschooling or "co-learning" as Michael puts it. I think the timing is perfect!
"We want learning to be so easy and fruitful so that parents who are struggling with school options can just do it themselves. I find that parents that are well educated and have their own ideas around education are looking at schools right now and wondering why we've been having the same conversation for 50 years on how to improve schools and as far as I can tell, I'm not sure how much progress we've made."Michael Staton | VCHunting S3E10
I summary, Michael believes that for co-learning and homeschooling to grow, it just needs to be easier for parents, or throughput for parents. There simply needs to be tools that allow parents to be more productive with the limited time they have to homeschool. After all, it is a full-time job! After receiving feedback for 7+ years from parents, Michael has (just recently) decided to go back into being a Founder:
"[At Colearn.Club] We want to give parents the tools that they need to make it dramatically easier to create great learning experiences for their families."Michael Straton | VCHunting S3E10
I look forward to following Michael and his new startup. As someone who is deeply considering the co-learning world for my two kids, I welcome any founder or entrepreneur who is willing to really disrupt the educational world. The traditional school system is broken and has been for a long time. It's time for a change!
Enjoy my retrospective:
All the best,
ps. I hope to increase Michael's inbound through LinkedIn. I hope he gets tons of notes from my audience out in Asia! Asian mom's hit him up!
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