Preschool Software Firm Brightwheel Tops $600 Million Value

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Brightwheel, a startup that provides technology to preschools, said it’s valued at more than $600 million after a $55 million funding round.

The investment in the San Francisco-based company was led by Lee Fixel’s venture capital firm Addition. Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective and Jeff Weiner’s Next Play Ventures also participated in the round. The company’s earlier investors include GGV Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Eniac Ventures, as well as Mark Cuban, who invested in Brightwheel after the founder appeared on the entrepreneur-oriented television show “Shark Tank.”

Brightwheel’s app is used by preschools, daycare centers and camps to communicate with parents. The software also processes billing and enables businesses to send photos and updates about children’s activities. The company’s valuation jumped from $115 million in 2018, according to PitchBook.

Demonstrating the app on “Shark Tank” in 2016 was a game changer for the business, said Dave Vasen, Brightwheel’s founder and chief executive officer.

“It had a really meaningful boost literally overnight,” Vasen said in an interview. “Most the people that we hire have seen that clip.”

Despite many preschools closing during the coronavirus pandemic, Brightwheel’s business grew in 2020, Vasen said.

Among other steps, the company added functions such as distance learning and health checks to its software. That helped 90% of its customers remain open and attracted thousands more.

“They could not reopen without dramatically changing how they operate,” Vasen said. “The vast majority of schools in this industry are still running on paper, pen and checks.”

GGV Capital Managing Partner Jeff Richards sees a large market opportunity as preschools gradually embrace technology.

“We know we can build a multibillion-dollar company,” said Richards. He said an IPO could be “a few years down the road.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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