Wiretap: John Doerr unveils latest investment in ed-tech startup Remind 101

When I got a heads-up that John Doerr wanted to talk about the latest startup he was investing in, I hopped on the phone. After all, this is the guy who brought Google and Amazon into the world.

But when I found out that the company, San Francisco-based Remind 101, makes a messaging app for teachers to communicate with their students’ parents, I scratched my head. Sure, ed-tech is a hot space, and schools certainly can use any technological leg up they can get. But Remind 101 on the surface didn’t strike me as the kind of category killer that would merit the attention of a VC superstar like Doerr — especially with reports that restive investors at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers are eager for a return to the firm’s high-flying days.

Still, there are some interesting subtexts here. For one, Doerr is joining rising-star VC Chamath Palihapitiya as the only two outside directors on the startup’s board. Since leaving Facebook in 2011, Palihapitiya and his Social + Capital Partnership fund have been popping up in what seems like half the interesting deals that cross my radar.

Brett Kopf, Remind 101’s first-time CEO, admitted it was a little mind-blowing having that kind of combined firepower at his disposal.

Second, Kleiner’s LPs might be feeling a little less restive of late. The firm started off the new year with a bang when one of its portfolio companies, Mandiant, was acquired in a deal worth some $1 billion. And Kleiner’s stake in Twitter, which Doerr acquired in late 2010 for $150 million, is worth well north of $1 billion these days.

Doerr, who’s one of the richest people in the world, is a heavyweight philanthropist and environmental evangelist, but he told me the Remind 101 deal is about more than do-goodery. “We made this  investment primarily for the opportunity to build a really valuable business,” he said.

Remind101 claims it’s used by more than 600,000 teachers — 15 percent of the entire K-12 teacher population —  to communicate with more than 10 million students and parents. Doerr sees those kinds of numbers and gets giddy.

I love entrepreneurs with great, big, hairy, audacious goals,” he told me, “and these guys have that.”


Doerr file photo by Karen T. Borchers, Mercury News


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