Member Spotlight: Owl Ventures

For this deep dive, we spoke to Tom Costin, Managing Director of Owl Ventures.

Tom Costin, Managing Director of Owl Ventures

Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?

Founded in 2014, Owl Ventures is the largest venture capital firm in the world focused on the education technology market with over $2 billion in assets under management.

We were purposely built to partner with and help scale the world’s leading education companies. With our dedicated focus on EdTech, our team has the experience, distribution channels, information advantages, and a global network of Limited Partners, investors, portfolio companies, and strategic partners that can meaningfully change the trajectory of a company and can help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of the education market. This hands-on approach helps companies across numerous functions including distribution, talent, building syndicates with top investors, and efficacy and outcomes measurement.

We are very fortunate to be supported by top global Limited Partners consisting of prestigious College & University Endowments, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Foundations, Strategic Education Institutions, and Family Offices from across the U.S., Asia, Europe, Middle East, and South America. This aligned deep global network of partners is critical to helping Owl and its portfolio companies with distribution channels, partnerships, and international resources and networks.

What defines your portfolio?

We invest across the education spectrum encompassing PreK-12, higher education, future of work (career mobility/professional learning), and “EdTech+” (intersection of EdTech and other major industries such as FinTech and healthcare). We invest in companies at all stages from seed, early, growth, and later stages and across all geographies around the world. We are inspired by visionary entrepreneurs that are solving large problems and are building transformative companies in education and workforce development.

Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region

The global EdTech market is continuing to flourish, and we are bullish on the near and long-term outlook of education technology. According to a recent Goldman Sachs report, the global education market is set to rise from $6 trillion in 2021 up to $25 trillion by 2030. As historic market challenges – of infrastructure, capital and talent – are being rapidly solved, we are now in a time where there is a fundamental acknowledgment that EdTech will profoundly affect billions of worldwide learners across all ages. Growth in blended learning, remote work, direct-to-consumer models, enterprise learning and skilling, AI-enabled learning, 1:1 device programs, and a rapid integration of AR/VR have all contributed to the global rise of EdTech. We continue to see generalist VC and PE funds be active in the space and we enjoy partnering with these firms to provide synergistic strategic value to portfolio companies.

What are the benefits of being an NVCA member?

We are grateful to be an NVCA member as we benefit from the significant resources and robust community that NVCA provides. We are proud to be a part of the NVCA Education and Workforce subgroup and appreciate being able to stay current on important issues in these fields. The goals of the education and workforce group align well with our firm’s mission to help improve access to education and workforce opportunities.  For example, our ~75 companies are serving over 525 million people across 230 countries, ~68,000 Higher Ed institutions and 340,000 employers and have created over 63,000 jobs.  Key highlights on the access across the portfolio include that ~44% of the students are English language learners, 76% students of color and 49% of the students qualify as free or reduced lunch students.

What’s ahead for your firm in 2022/2023?

We raised our fifth fund last year so we expect 2023 to be a continuation of our work this year by being very active supporting our portfolio companies while seeking compelling new deal opportunities. We have a number of portfolio companies that are scaled market leaders, so we intend to also be active in seeking M&A and IPO opportunities as market conditions improve. We will also be expanding the footprint of our team with new offices in the U.S and internationally.