SM: Have you remained in the education space since your introduction to it at Apple?
CV: I have, with one exception.
SM: Where did you go from Apple?
CV: I went and joined a small team that was starting a company. They were seeking someone who could come in and raise money and become the CEO. After having worked with very large companies I joined a team of four that was starting an educational technology company. This was in 1994.
SM: What was the company going to do?
CV: Instructional software media and math focused on grades K-6. I left Apple, which was really a complete shift for me. I had only been with large computer and hardware companies. I was fortunate to work for companies who were leaders in their space. I went to a raw startup that literally had no funding. I learned just how hard it is to establish a brand and credibility. It is hard to build a company from the ground up.
The company I joined was Tenth Planet. We received venture capital backing from some leading Valley funds. We built the company for four years and ultimately sold it to Sunburst Communications. At that point I left education for a period of time. One of my investors in Tenth Planet suggested that I get involved with one of their portfolio companies.
SM: What venture firm asked you to join one of their portfolio companies?
CV: Mohr Davidow Ventures. I got involved and ultimately became the CEO of one of their portfolio companies, which was Post Communications, an email marketing company. I was CEO of Post for about two years and completed the acquisition of Post by Netcentives, which had become a public company six months prior. That was in the spring of 2000.
Shortly after we completed the acquisition I was contacted by Apple and asked to consider going back to Apple and education. It was the spring of 2000, when the climate for VC-backed companies was changing significantly. Having spent six years in the startup world, the opportunity to go back to the larger corporate environment was something that I found interesting. The opportunity to go back into education was appealing.
SM: That startup market had definitely collapsed. That would have been a difficult time to start a company.
CV: Raising money in that environment was not particularly appealing to me. I went back to Apple and worked directly for Steve Jobs in education products and marketing.
SM: What products were you marketing to the educational segment at that point?
CV: It was primarily Macs, laptops, and desktop computers. I was involved in marketing to the K 3-12 sector as well as to the post-secondary education sectors. Apple had then, and still does, a much broader solution at the university level. I spent another two years at Apple in education.
While at Apple I was involved in the acquisition of an educational software company in the K-12 space that did student information systems for K-12, which was PowerSchool. After the acquisition I was asked to manage PowerSchool, so I was ironically in a large company being asked to work in a small business again. My real passion in the K-12 space is not in the administration or student systems side, which is basically about state reporting. My passion is on the instructional side and really improving student outcomes and raising student achievement by focusing on the instructional side.
When Apex was looking for a CEO and recruited me I first declined the interview because I was not initially interested in relocating from the Bay Area to Seattle. I was convinced to commute, so a little over seven years ago I joined Apex to take them to the next level.