SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Two veteran education-sector investors have joined forces to build Juvo Ventures, a double-bottom-line venture capital firm established to invest in transformative endeavors across the learner lifecycle to expand access, improve quality, increase outcomes, and broaden pathways between talent and opportunity. Juvo Ventures has a mission to empower entrepreneurs, invest in innovative solutions, optimize learner outcomes at scale from early childhood to adulthood, and maximize investor returns.
Founding managing partners Maia Sharpley and Dre Bennin collectively bring over 30 years of combined experience in investing, managing, and operating technology-enabled education ventures in the United States and internationally. They share a passion for excellence in execution and an unflinching commitment to supporting a diverse set of entrepreneurs who are building technologies that provide equitable education opportunities at scale for all learners, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds.
“The events of 2020 have exacerbated massive changes to the way we teach, learn, engage and manage information, and as a result, entrepreneurs are driving innovation to provide education at scale as never before,” Sharpley said. “We need to think expansively and look more broadly for quality solutions that are accessible and affordable, and the best and brightest minds tackling these questions are not always found in the same places investors have poured funding into in the past. Juvo can drive change globally by focusing on entrepreneurs who have the diverse needs of current and future learners in mind.”
Juvo Ventures’ initial fund, which will focus on early-stage investments across the early-childhood-through-adult learning sector, is anchored by competency-based education leader Western Governors University—itself a scaled disruptive player in higher education. Juvo Ventures already has a portfolio of eight investments throughout North America and is hosting six startups in its inaugural “Bridge to Success” incubator program, half of which are based outside of North America.
“Our name ‘Juvo’ means to help, to support, to further,” Bennin said. “That idea extends not just to our beliefs of how we can help entrepreneurs create value, but also to the needs of learners and how innovation can unlock the potential of every individual.”
“We need more investors and entrepreneurs whose life journeys reflect the needs of the customers they serve,” said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, WGU Trustee and President and CEO of DreamBox Learning®, a K–8 digital math company that pioneered intelligent adaptive learning. “Maia and Dre’s experience and perspectives will be invaluable as Juvo Ventures catalyzes investments in scalable, efficacy-based innovations that can support the educational needs of millions of learners.”
Sharpley and Bennin are experienced investors who have participated on the boards of more than 15 companies. A recognized thought leader, Sharpley’s experience spans the globe with deep roots in K–12, postsecondary, and professional/vocational education, as well as the test prep, language training, publishing, early childhood and international pathway and foundation industries. Sharpley brings a rich background including her work as Executive Director of Operations for the New York City Department of Education, and later as Corporate Vice President for Strategy and Innovation with Kaplan, Inc. Most recently she has been a partner at Learn Capital, a leading Silicon Valley-based EdTech investment firm focused on the global education technology sector. She is also a Kauffman Fellow.
Bennin has complementary expertise in postsecondary education and workforce development investing, including serving as Managing Director of Corporate Development for Strada Education Network. In addition, while serving as Senior Operations Director for Governor Eric J. Holcomb of Indiana, Bennin covered the infrastructure, economic and workforce development portfolios and helped oversee the creation of a $250 million fund designed to advance entrepreneurship and innovation in Indiana.
“COVID accelerated the disruption that we’ve been seeing in education,” Bennin said. “Learners need to build the skills that will make them successful. This is a global issue, and we’re looking for entrepreneurs and innovators tackling those issues right now. Our investments to date have reflected this view and our portfolio companies are at the forefront of shaping the learning ecosystem of the future.”
“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. That is true for learners, and it’s also true for entrepreneurs, many of whom have been overlooked by venture funders because they don’t have the traditional profile,” said Scott Pulsipher, President of WGU. “Juvo Ventures’ diverse and global perspective, coupled with the unique advantage of a close partnership with the broader WGU ecosystem, will drive both investor returns and student impacts.”
ABOUT JUVO VENTURES
Formerly operating as New U Venture Partners (NUVP), Juvo Ventures is a venture fund formed and sponsored by the Corporation of WGU to catalyze a global initiative to develop the innovation that will redefine post-secondary education that supports the future of work, improves quality, expand access, and optimizes outcomes for the next century and beyond. With the experience of Sharpley and Bennin, Juvo Ventures will expand its focus to include early childhood to adult learning globally, still with an emphasis on improving quality, expanding access and optimizing outcomes for learners and investors. Visit https://www.juvovc.com to learn more.