Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Deborah Quazzo was recorded in June 2020.
Deborah Quazzo is Managing Partner at GSV Ventures, a fund focused on online education ventures. This is a very good discussion on patterns of success and failure in the sector and what investors are gravitating towards.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s get acquainted. Let’s get you introduced to our audience. Tell us a bit about your background and also about GSV.
Deborah Quazzo: We are GSV which stands for Global Silicon Valley. From a global perspective, we focus on the $7 trillion global education and workforce skills marketplace.
We do that through two approaches. One is through GSV Ventures where we invest in primarily early-stage companies. We also do some later-stage investments like in premiere names in the education technology space – Coursera, Class Dojo, Remind, Photomath, and Guild Education.
We also host an event called ASU-GSV summit when we are not in a COVID lockdown. We have been doing a series of virtual conversations in its place and we are hoping that we can do it later in the year.
The ASU-GSV summit is a gathering of leaders across what we call the PreK-12 learning and talent landscape. It’s usually 5,500 people from all over the world sharing views and perspectives on the future of digital education.
COVID has been an interesting phenomenon for online learning for probably everybody. It has rapidly accelerated the sector. It has been a pretty active period for us in the lockdown.
Sramana Mitra: We have covered Course Hero for a long time and I know the view very well. Just recently, I spoke with the CEO of Quizlet, and I know him very well. We have our Entrepreneur Journey series where all these entrepreneurs are featured in a long feature story.
We do cover online education in a big way. We have a lot of entrepreneurs in online education that are in our community. It is an area that is of great interest to us. How big is the fund?
Deborah Quazzo: Our first fund was right at $100 million. For our second fund, we’re targeting $200 million with a hard cap of $250,000. We’ve closed on half of that. That’s roughly $100 million at this point.
Sramana Mitra: What size checks do you write?
Deborah Quazzo: Majority of our investments come in through seed and Series A, so we’d be in a seed round putting in anywhere from $250,000 to a million on average. In any round, we can invest anywhere up to probably $8 million.
We have a view that disproportionate gains accrue to a leader in tech categories. We’re seeing that in spades during the epidemic and so when we see companies breaking out, we want to build up a position of $10 million to $15 million in a single company.
The perspective is they could return the fund. That’s how we think about it, but we will typically come and see the series A and can also do a select number of later-stage investment stages.