A string of recent articles in the St. Louis Business Journal chronicles big news from education startup Varsity Tutors, founded by WashU alum Chuck Cohn.
Cohn launched the company in 2007 as a student at Washington University in St. Louis with a $1,000 loan from his parents. Initially a tool to connect students with in-home tutoring and test prep, Varsity Tutors now offers everything from large- and small-group classes to one-on-one private tutoring to tools for self-study. Users also can take advantage of virtual summer camps and celebrity-led instruction. Cohn is Varsity Tutors’ CEO.
Varsity Tutors goes public
For Washington University in St. Louis alum Chuck Cohn, that his company Varsity Tutors would go public was not an “if”, but a “when.” That “when” is now.
Nerdy, the parent company of Varsity Tutors, will be acquired by TPG Pace Tech Opportunities, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Private equity powerhouse TPG has previously backed tech and gig economy giants such as Uber and Airbnb.
SPACs raise capital through an initial public offering then use the proceeds to acquire a private company and take it public. They’re sometimes referred to as “blank check companies” because investors often fund them before knowing the acquisition target. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly 300 SPACs with about $90 billion in cash were currently seeking deals.
The deal is expected to close early in the second quarter of 2021 and will value Nerdy at $1.7 billion. Nerdy will trade on the New York Stock Exchange as “NRDY.”
Existing investors and company management are anticipated to keep more than 50% ownership in the company with Cohn remaining its largest individual shareholder. Cohn will stay on as founder, chairman and CEO of Nerdy.
Nerdy adds Amazon execs
More recently, Nerdy has hired a pair of former Amazon.com Inc. executives to newly created roles.
Karthik Anbalagan was hired as the company’s new chief audience officer. He’ll be using the company’s data to create personalized learning opportunities for customers, a key component of the company.
Anbalagan worked at Amazon for more than a decade, most recently as director of new innovation programs for Amazon Fashion. He also previously worked at Microsoft.
Craig Pape will be its chief marketplace operations officer. Pape will manage and curate the roster of experts for Nerdy’s online learning platform, according to the company. Pape was with Amazon for more than 20 years, most recently as its director of executive recruiting.
The new positions and hires dovetail with the company’s plans to significantly expand headcount for its product, engineering and data science platforms and focus on internal product development.