Summary: NewSchools Venture Fund does it again, investing in an awesome startup with big goals.
Earlier this year, I covered Goalbook, an ed tech startup that was taking a drastically different approach to the development and usability of IEPs (Individual Educational Plans). The Web 2.0 application was unique in the market, but also noteworthy for the educational experience and savvy of the founder, an educator who shares my frustration with the generally miserable IEP process. Just as notable as Goalbook, though, was the NewSchools Venture Seed Fund, a VC firm focused on great ed tech startups that have the potential to make a real difference for students, especially those who are generally underserved.
Now, NewSchools has invested in another company, Mytonomy, that is trying to make college prep and career readiness far more accessible for students who might not otherwise have the connections or resources to pursue higher education and enter the 21st century workforce. According to the NewSchools release,
Mytonomy [is] a near-peer network meaning that students are learning from those who are socially several degrees closer than they might find in a generic Google search...Schools can use the service to build an archive of alumni social capital, and create an “always on” stream of counseling content from credible and relevant sources, and that can over time, be tailored.
The advice runs the gamut from the tactical (what to do if you’re waitlisted) to reflections (if I knew then what I know now) to the practical (use your smartphone as an alarm clock).
What is perhaps more interesting is the real problem that Mytonomy helps to address:
Mytonomy targets support at high school guidance counselors, often a student’s only source for college knowledge...school guidance counselors [carry] an average caseload of 470 students (in California, it’s 1000:1). If we very generously suppose the average counselor can schedule five one-hour meetings per day for a 180 day school year – each student will have received less than 2 hours of assistance to prep, select and apply for college.
Mytonomy isn't intended to replace guidance counselors, but I think most of us would agree that the assumptions noted above aren't just very generous but are utter nonsense. Counselors deal with everything from social services referrals to special education issues; all too often, college prep, especially for students from underserved communities who may be less likely to self-advocate for assistance, takes a distant back seat to critical issues like drug abuse, domestic violence, and teen pregnancy.
So a resource that is part YouTube, part youth-centric LinkedIn, and part advice column isn't just a cool idea, but a critical resource for students and overstretched guidance staff.
Founded by an ex-Googler (Vinay Bhargava) and a school counselor, Mytonomy is particularly targeting first-generation students "who are pioneering their path to college and often lack the live networks where college advice is informally shared". Many videos (I've linked here to an example video from a current Facebook employee on product management), in fact, are available in both English and Spanish and can either be shared in their entirety or from a specific point in time. However, the resources here are valuable for both high schools students and recent college graduates across demographic lines.