Dispatches from the Front: EdTech Leaders Face Covid-19 – Week 10

Dispatches from the Front
EdTech Leaders Face Covid-19
 
This is the tenth of a series of mini-interviews ODP conducted with EdTech Founders and Senior Executives to gain insights into how industry leaders are adjusting their strategies and evolving their management practices during the current pandemic.
 
THIS WEEK: George Cigale, Founder of Tutor.com
 
 
 
George Cigale, Founder of Tutor.com
 

George Cigale founded Tutor.com and served as its CEO until it was acquired by IAC in 2013. Under George’s leadership, Tutor.com became the leading provider of on-demand instructional solutions for students and professionals.

George is currently a partner at Peak State Ventures, an early stage venture fund, and advises leaders of education technology companies and educational institutions. He serves on the Board of Higher Ground Education, and as a Trustee on the Boards of Columbia University Teachers College and The Wild Center.

 
 

1. As the founder of Tutor.com, you were a pioneer in online learning.  What did you learn from that experience that seems particularly relevant in the age of COVID-19?

I continue to learn and be reminded that timing is everything. Some companies that looked great before the pandemic are not going to make it, and others that were struggling to be noticed are now high flying.  Manage your cash cautiously, raise more than you need, hire smart flexible people, take contingency planning seriously, and foster a culture that is always on the lookout for disruptions and can pivot quickly when there is one.

2. Now that the school year is underway, what has surprised you the most about what’s happening in schools and universities?

What has surprised me most is how most higher education leaders have depended on highly optimistic and almost magical thinking in their planning for the Fall semester.  No one should be surprised that it was a bad idea to count on college students to social distance and not gather in large and small groups without virus-spreading precautions.  Blaming the virus hotspots on student behavior instead of poor leadership and planning is hypocritical and a poor example for educational institutions to set.

3. Do you think education will ever go back to normal (however you define it)?  What will the “new normal” look like?

No, education will not and should not go back to normal.  Our K12 system does not meet the educational needs and does not inspire most students. We need to find better blended learning models to do both, and we need educational leaders who are not invested in keeping the status quo from changing. 

4. How has the pandemic changed your view of what kinds of companies to invest in, and what to steer clear of?

More likely to invest in companies that are pushing paradigm shifts in how schools and consumers use technology to learn.  Steering clear of company leaders who think this is just a blip and things will go back to normal in due time.

5. What are you particularly excited about from an investment perspective in this environment?

Companies thinking creatively about how to help schools and universities change and adopt new technologies, companies helping universities form stronger connections between their educational programs and new workforce needs, companies providing parents new ways of inspiring their children to learn.

 
EDTECH TEAM
 
ROBIN WARNER

Managing Director

r.warner@dp.oaklins.com

JACK NOBLE

Partner

j.noble@dp.oaklins.com

NEAL GOFF

Senior Advisor

n.goff@dp.oaklins.com

ERICA GRUEN

Senior Advisor

e.gruen@dp.oaklins.com

ANDY M. BENNETT

Associate

a.bennett@dp.oaklins.com

COLTON T. SMITH

Associate

c.smith@dp.oaklins.com

Please contact us to discuss your Company and also hear what is happening in EdTech M&A!

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Oaklins | DESILVA+PHILLIPS is an investment bank for clients that operate at the intersection of content, technology and services. This includes enterprises operating within the media, advertising & marketing, education, healthcare, information services and technology sectors.  Over 24 years, clients have included Advance Publications/Condé Nast, Deutsche Börse Group, Elsevier, Hachette, JP Morgan Partners, Microsoft, The New York Times, Time Inc., TPG and Wasserstein & Co., among others. The firm is the TMT practice co-head and industry specialist in Oaklins, the world’s most experienced mid-market M&A advisor, with over 850 professionals globally and dedicated industry teams in more than 45 countries. We have closed 1,700 transactions in the past five years.At Oaklins, we are passionate about M&A. It’s what we do, every day. We give nothing but our very best to do justice to the extraordinary effort our clients put into their businesses. Our partnership with our clients works because we both believe in never settling until we deliver excellence. Coming from every corner of the world and with a diverse range of backgrounds, together we are one global team. The world’s most experienced advisor on mid-market deals.Oaklins is the collective trade name of independent member firms affiliated with Oaklins International Inc. For details of the nature of the affiliation, please refer to www.oaklins.com/legal.

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Robin Warner

Managing Director

Oaklins DeSilva+Phillips

(212) 651-2605