Because every kid deserves a tutor and a better shot at life.
Why we invested in Megan O’Connor and Sam Gimbel of Clark.
One of the most important jobs in our society is that of a teacher. But the average starting salary in the US for a teacher is $35k. What if we fixed that without asking the White House for help?
Megan O’Connor, the co-founder and CEO of Clark, knows this problem personally. Her mom was a public school teacher who worked nights and weekends as a tutor to make extra money for the family. Megan and her co-founder Sam Gimbel, decided they could make the entire experience better and help even more people have the opportunity to help their communities and make extra income. So they decided to build Clark. (Clark received early seed funding from a NYC incubator called Human Ventures.)
Clark is a platform for tutors, students, and families. You can think of it as a mobile ERP and CRM for tutors. First, they upload their existing rolodex to schedule sessions with their students and manage the full lifecycle of a relationship of ongoing communication, payments, and sharing of progress reports. The tutors and students can also search in their local communities to find each other.
As we think about the future of work and the possibility that technology will take away more and more jobs, I believe the role of the teacher and tutor will be one of the last to go. Today, tutoring is often thought of as a coastal-city elite opportunity for only some kids. What I’d love Clark to prove, as it continues to scale to cities across the country and later the world, is that software can not only improve the experience of education, but also improve access to kids everywhere.
That’s why I’m proud to announce our lead investment of $2M into Clark. I’m thrilled to be joining the board and look forward to working with this team because every kid deserves access to a tutor and a better shot at life.
You can watch their story unfold on this week’s episode of Planet of the Apps:
Watch "Nothing But Hustle" from Planet of the Apps on Apple Musicitunes.apple.com
I recently asked Megan and Sam a few questions about their journey in building Clark.
Aaron: Did you have a personal story / perspective that this idea addressed?
Megan: The idea for Clark started by watching my mom, a public school teacher and tutor, work to scale her tutoring business. The goal was simple: find a way to work more so she could earn more. The problem was that additional tutoring sessions meant more administrative work, and eventually time became the barrier to increasing her earnings. The average tutor spends about 20% of their time working unpaid administrative hours. The goal of Clark? Eliminate that time to allow educators to work more billable hours and make more money. I have always worked in education, most recently at Pencils of Promise, but relationship with my mom is what informed the idea for Clark.
Sam: I draw from my Robinhood Fellowship. So many people in the informal economy are simply overlooked or relegated to the matching economies that place consumer convenience above the need to make a sustainable living. I wanted to make something better.
Aaron: What’s your background and how did it inform your idea for your app?
Sam: I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and I’ve pursued a career as a product manager at some pretty interesting places including DigitalOcean and DramaFever. My speciality has always been focused on getting entire teams excited about what they’re working on while also dealing with the process problems which result when teams aren’t so excited. Basically, I love working with people to create stuff! I believe that products are living organisms if you let them be one.
Aaron: Who are you targeting with Clark?
Sam: Tutors, educators and gig workers who care about whether the work they’re doing changes lives. We want to allow for people to do more, people who deserve to be paid.
Megan: The existing tutoring market and every teacher in America.
Aaron: How do you differentiate from the competition?
Megan: We are the only data driven tutoring platform that puts the educator first and enables them to lead with student progress.
Sam: We’re ahead of a wave that will lead to more services that grow markets by providing better (and growing) revenue opportunities for workers.
Aaron: What founders do you admire?
Megan: Kathryn Minshew at The Muse, Brad Hargreaves at Common, Wiley Cerilli at Good Uncle and Tony Hsieh at Zappos.
Sam: Stewart Butterfield of Slack and Mathilde Collin at Front.
Aaron: Your 5 must follow people on Twitter?
Megan: @HiClarkTutors obviously(!); Heather Hartnett CEO of Human Ventures; Hunter Walk for great industry news; megan quinn for personal reads and general great entertainment.
Aaron: What’s your ultimate goal for Clark?
Sam and Megan: We want to make it possible for educators to make a sustainable living. We also want to provide a holistic picture of the relevant data and indicators that lead to successful educational interventions, and expand that into all the ways students learn and progress.
Aaron: What’s the most valuable piece of professional advice you have received?
Sam: No one knows what they’re doing, and we’re all figuring it out.
Megan: Done is better than perfect.
Aaron: What is a core value you aim to emphasize in the way you conduct business?
Sam and Megan: Empathy — as an umbrella term for the mindfulness and thought that can go into your interactions with customers, coworkers, and more. It frames our ideology, our politics, and our vision for Clark.
Aaron: What businesses and/or brands do you admire?
Sam: This is going to sound like a shameless plug, but I love the venture studio model of Human Ventures for it’s focus on providing opportunities to first-time founders with the passion and drive to create something amazing. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind organization and I’m so lucky to be part of it.
Megan: ClassDojo, Remind, Lyft, Everlane, Bespoke Post