Wonderschool, a network of in-home daycare and preschools, plans to open 150 programs in New York City after raising $2.1 million in new funding. The capital comes from non-profit investment firm Omidyar Network, Be Curious Partners, Rethink Education, Edelweiss Partners and Learn Capital and brings the startup’s total raised so far to more than $4 million, including a seed round announced last summer.
Headquartered in San Francisco, most of Wonderschool’s programs, or about 140, are in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The startup already has 16 programs in New York City, which suffers from a huge childcare shortage exacerbated by some of the highest tuition rates in the country. Wonderschool’s general manager there is Ben Newton, who was on the founding team of Avenues: The World School, an international system of private schools.
One of the reasons Wonderschool was created is because compensation rates in early childcare education are so low that many caregivers are not only priced out of the neighborhoods they serve, but eventually quit the field (sometimes because they, ironically, cannot afford childcare costs for their own kids on their salaries).
Part of Wonderschool’s value proposition for providers, which it screens based on credentials, experience and education, is efficiency. It not only provides its programs with support, but also helps them with licensing, creating a daily routine for kids, maintaining liability insurance, meeting health and safety standards and other time-consuming administrative tasks. The company’s tech platform lets carers manage their programs, communicate with parents and take payments online, while giving parents program, enrollment and tuition information. Wonderschool emphasizes in-home programs because it helps providers save further on costs (and lets them look after their own children, too) and monetizes by taking a percentage of monthly tuition fees.
In a statement, Isabelle Hau, the U.S. education lead at Omidyar Network, said “Wonderschool is responding with better quality and more flexible solutions to meet the needs of early learners, their parents and child care providers. By using Wonderschool’s technology platform, early learning educators get to focus on what they are best at, which is caring for and teaching young children.”
Wonderschool founder and chief executive officer Chris Bennett says city leaders have contacted the startup about launching in their communities, but it will focus first on growing its network in California and New York City. “Since we do build up waiting lists for programs that we support, it has been more of a focus to build density in areas where we already support programs, rather than starting in new areas, so that we can support the families that have already come to Wonderschool to find a program for their child,” he told TechCrunch.