Learn Start


Fund I and II

A seed fund of global education technology companies with 20 percent allocated to early childhood development.

Problem: Lack of Diverse Supports and Investment to Support Early Childhood Growth and Development

Solution: Use Traditional Capital Tools and Creative Solutions to  Invest In Innovative Solutions to Support Colorado Kids

Defining the Problem

Within our School Readiness and Youth Success outcome areas, Gary takes many different approaches and uses different tools to improve outcomes for Colorado’s kids. To make strong progress on our School Readiness goal, in particular, we need to catalyze high-impact, market-led innovations to support children ages 0-5. 

Kids and families need wrap-around support to thrive. Families require access to resources to raise healthy and happy kids, and kids need access to resources that ensure their strong early development. Fifty-one percent of all Coloradans, for example, live in a childcare desert, with African-American and Hispanic Coloradans disproportionately affected compared to White families. Expanding access to resources and increasing childcare capacity to respond to the needs of working families is essential to the well-being of our communities and improving the percentage of kindergarteners meeting school readiness domains (as of 2019, only 64% of Colorado kindergarteners met expectations in at least five of six school readiness domains). Significant public and private investment is required to address these key issues and improve long-term outcomes.

Searching for a Solution

How might we increase investment in Colorado’s children to provide the resources they need for school readiness?

There is a need for innovation in market-led solutions in both early childhood development (ECD) and K-12 education. Public and private investment in education has historically focused K-12 education on teacher-led instruction in physical classrooms with paper-based resources. However, the skills required of today’s 21st century children require 21st century curricula and methodologies. The evolution of the modern classroom and impact of COVID-19 has further demonstrated the need for, and reliance on, technology to provide critical educational resources and connectivity to children and their families. Digital platforms have experienced significant growth in the past sixteen months, and other curricula and innovations across age groups have moved to a digital platform—a response to COVID, but also accelerating scale and accessibility both in K-12 and increasingly in early childhood development. 

Within the EdTech sector, the early-childhood space has been largely ignored and attracts very little venture investment. Less than 3% of education and EdTech venture dollars are directed toward early childhood companies. As a result, our strategy at Gary is to seek both investment opportunities and ways to incentivize investment and innovation, specifically in early childhood.

Growing, Building & Changing What’s Possible

As we sought specific opportunities for investment and innovation, Learn Capital immediately surfaced as a leader in education venture investing—delivering attractive returns while catalyzing innovative education solutions. To date, it has over $500 million in assets under management, invested in over 130 companies across its five funds, and reached over 500 million learners through its investees.

Two of Learn Capital’s funds, LearnStart I and II, work to bridge the gap in venture investment in early childhood development, helping to demonstrate a model that can attract other, more mainstream VC funds and private investors to dedicate more of their resources to the sector. We were excited by LearnStart’s alignment with Gary’s outcome areas and focus on ECD, and its strategy to integrate ECD investments into a broader EdTech portfolio that is demonstrating strong returns and drawing additional investment into the space.

The Team

Carey Dobbertin
Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer
Santhosh Ramdoss
Vice President, Impact Investing
Catherine Toner
Director, Impact Investing

Delivering Breakthrough Solutions

Our partnership with LearnStart exemplifies Gary’s commitment not just to investing, but also to standing side-by-side with investees to help them grow their ideas. As an anchor investor in LearnStart’s first fund, we have partnered with this amazing team to scale the impact of their portfolio, particularly in early childhood development, and are thrilled to continue working alongside the team as they deploy their second fund.

Carey DobbertinChief Financial Officer & Treasurer, Gary Community Ventures

Gary was thrilled to provide an anchor investment in LearnStart I in 2018, and recently committed additional capital to Fund II. Fund I is already demonstrating strong impact and financial returns. Its portfolio includes eight investments in ECD. Portfolio company examples include Pya, a provider of telehealth services intended to transform autism care through technology and Higher Ground, a cloud-powered school network of Montessori schools offering distinctive training and at-home services for parents and families. 

The current LearnStart II pipeline contains over 200 seed-stage opportunities in early learning and development and K-12, over 125 of which specifically focus on early learning. Gary has partnered with LearnStart’s fund manager, Don Burton, to actively support ECD companies in Colorado and attract the strongest innovations in its portfolio to operate in Colorado in service of children and families. We will continue to use different tools to invest in and support innovation in ECD both nationally and in Colorado, and scale the possible impact of companies addressing the needs of children.

All our Ventures are Joint Ventures

Where breakthrough solutions already exist, we help GROW them with our resources and partnership. As we venture to solve some of the toughest problems facing Colorado kids and families, we’d love for you to join us.