Shauntel Poulson is a Co-Founder and General Partner at Reach Capital, a $53M early stage venture firm, where she provides startup capital and support to education technology companies focused on issues of access and opportunity in education. Prior to Reach, Poulson was a Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund and invested in over 40 early stage edtech companies through the NewSchools Seed Fund. She was previously a Senior Engineer at Procter and Gamble where she developed product innovations, designed supply chains, and managed technology partnerships for the global laundry business. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering from MIT and her MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University.
How did your education and professional experience shape your work now at Reach Capital?
My mother is a prime example of how education can improve social mobility. She grew up in a low-income community in Nebraska, but made education a priority and overcame countless barriers to become a tenured professor. She instilled in me a love for learning and I developed a strong interest in math and science. I also benefited from teachers who took a vested interest in my success. My high school chemistry teacher saw my potential and encouraged me to pursue a career in chemical engineering, which put me on the path to becoming an engineer at Procter and Gamble. Through my volunteer work, I saw firsthand the inequalities in the education system and the lack of access to educational opportunities for many students. I decided to make a career change to focus on my passion of ensuring all students have access to a quality education. My role at Reach Capital allows me to use my business and analytical skill set to find and support companies focused on issues of access and opportunity in education.
How do you hope your work at Reach Capital will change the learning landscape?
I envision an education system that can meet the individual needs of an increasingly diverse student population and prepare students to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. At Reach Capital, I am investing in entrepreneurs developing technology-based solutions for a variety of stakeholders to make this vision a reality. Currently, my portfolio companies are creating rigorous and relevant content for students, building tools for teachers to personalize instruction, designing data dashboards for administers to make informed decisions, and developing products for families to support their children’s learning. My hope is that these solutions will enable all students to fall in love with learning and reach their full potential.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are revolutionizing every industry and applications in education can have a significant impact on teaching and learning. Although education is highly relational, machine learning and AI are powerful tools to streamline mundane processes and provide better insights for students and educators. Two examples in my portfolio include WriteLab and AdmitHub. WriteLab leverages machine learning to provide students with specific feedback on their writing in the moment. Since students can make multiple revisions before submitting their work, teachers can provide more detailed and nuanced feedback. AdmitHub leverages AI to guide students to and through college with the support of a virtual assistant. The virtual assistant can handle the common questions and repetitive tasks, allowing college administrators to focus on high-impact student support.
Apart from your role at Reach Capital, what are you currently working on and what is your next big project?
Right now I am 100% focused on investing in innovative, impactful edtech startups and supporting our Reach portfolio companies.
Who are the most interesting people you are following on Twitter?
Following on Twitter (not people, but good sources of #edtech information):
Follow Shauntel on Twitter @SLP_EDU
Image: Courtesy Shauntel Poulson