This Is Silicon Valley's Favorite Ed Reform Group

A daring new business idea needs startup funding. To obtain that early financing, entrepreneurs often turn to venture capital firms that are willing to take a chance on new, innovative ideas. NewSchools Venture Fund extends the venture capital model to K-12 education.

Since its founding in 1998, NewSchools have invested tens of millions in nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs with one thing in common: a desire to find innovative solutions to the problems in public education that will lead to higher student achievement, improved graduation rates, and more students going to college.

NewSchools Venture Fund is the brainchild of social entrepreneur Kim Smith and Silicon Valley venture capitalists Brook Byer and John Doerr. All three believed that visionary educators and entrepreneurs with sufficient access to capital could bring lasting change to education, just as business entrepreneurs have done for decades. NewSchools is headquartered in Oakland but also has offices in Boston and Washington, D.C.

NewSchools started out as mainly a funder of charter school organizations, but has since branched out to support other types of education-related organizations and businesses, including educational technology firms, teacher training organizations, and research and advocacy groups. Charter management organizations remain significant recipeints of NewSchools funding. Charter organizations supported by NewSchools include KIPP, Aspire, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, DC Preparatory Academy, Excel Academy, and Leadership Public Schools.

Other types of firms that have benefited from NewSchools' support include The New Teacher Project, tutor organization Reading Partners, New Schools for New Orleans, Learning Games Network, and education data management and visualization firm Schoolzilla.

Just as these "edupreneurs" need startup funding for their ideas and innovations, so NewSchools Venture Fund has relied on funding from a broad range of individuals and foundations. Its donor list reads like a who's who of education funders and includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationthe Michael and Susan Dell Foundationthe Carnegie Corporation of New YorkBloomberg Philanthropiesthe Walton Family Foundation, and the Broad Foundation.

As education entrepreneurship funding continues to soar (more than $600 million a year, up 80 percent since 2005, The New York Times reported in 2013), NewSchools is sure to continue searching for new school-related ventures to support. As reported by this blog last year, education technology firm Rethink Education entered into a partnership with NewSchools that will ensure significant capital for this education venture funder.

Despite NewSchools' history as a charter management organization funder, its giving is not limited to charter schools and charter advocates. Other types of organizations with ideas NewSchools believes will move the education achievement needle should get to know this funder.