Education has always held pride of place in Tom Davidson’s life and career. He ran for the Maine legislature from his college dorm, and went on to play a key role in enhancing broadband access to the state’s schools and libraries. Later in life, as a partner at Village Ventures, he funded early-stage technology companies in education before driving all the way down to Washington, D.C. to build a digital education startup. Five years on, EverFi is at the forefront of educational innovation, delivering life-enhancing and life-saving programs to over 14 million learners, many to sections of society that need it most.
Leveraging his passion for education and prior experience in venture capital, Davidson has raised over $60 million from a veritable who’s who of venture world – Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Twitter’s Evan Williams and Google’s Eric Schmidt, and marquee venture firms such as New Enterprise Associates, Advance Publications, Rethink Education, and Allen and Company.
In an interview with citybizlist’s Edwin Warfield, Davidson outlined his vision for EverFi. “I want it to be a very large standalone awesome software company that has chosen 15 or so areas that it wants to attack that are important to the country and is doing that really, really well and profitably,” he said, calling his goal a really simple one.
Davidson also explained why he believes in a combination of for-profit goals and social enterprise, and why companies like EverFi are best positioned to expand education access to all, besides sharing leadership secrets that won him a 99% employee approval rating and a place among Glassdoor’s highest-ranked CEOs.
A: Well, I think EverFi is a company that’s pretty easy to get excited about in theory, because there aren’t that many companies that are trying to attack these major, intractable social issues that have plagued the United States for hundreds of years, but also do that as a company and I think that that is unique. One of the things that we’ve done at EverFi is this.
We’ve looked down and we’ve said, who are the best software companies in the world, and I want to bench EverFi against those companies. I want to grow 50% plus a year, I want to have the highest renewal rate in the business. I want to have the highest revenue retention rates. I want to benchmark myself against companies regardless of what they do. The fact that we also have this like this driving social mission to you know, lower violent sexual incidents on campus, to increase the financial proficiency and education in communities that are often left behind and under the crushing debt and debt spiral of financial illiteracy. To do those things and do them as a subscription based technology company is something that gets people really fired up, it gets me totally fired up because there aren’t that many companies that figure that stuff out.
Q: EverFi recently acquired LawRoom. Can you tell us about LawRoom, a compliance education leader?
A: Part of the challenge of this company is that we play in different verticals, and in each of the verticals that we focus on, in financial literacy or sexual assault prevention, or corporate compliance around really difficult issues, or diversity in inclusion, there are great players in all of those.
LawRoom is a really great business, 20-plus-year-old business based out of San Francisco. What attracted us about that company was that they had absolutely best in class customer list. They were profitable, growing like crazy and number one, we competed with them in the college sexual assault prevention space. Number two, they brought to us a corporate compliance function that we didn’t have here internally and that we were never going to probably build on our own in any way that would be able to compete with them in short order. It made just a ton of sense, what we want to do at the end of the day is we want to partner with the biggest companies in the world and power all of their education and training initiatives internally around complicated areas and that was a big step towards that goal.
Q: Can you tell us about some of your corporate clients, corporate responsibility arms like Intel, American Express, Axciom, Barracuda Networks, Samsung and Survey Monkey?
A: One of the things that gets people excited about what we’re doing here at EverFi is I think the addressable market that we have. If you think that our customers are Intel and Dropbox and AirBnb, and they’re American Express and Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and UBS and they’re NHL, you know the NFL and the NBA, and you kind of go down the line and Harvard and Stanford and Princeton and the like. It’s an incredible market opportunity that we have and those customers are a great indicator of that. Some of the big ones are, we teamed with the NFL and United Way to launch a program called Character Playbook. This is a major initiative of both the NFL all of the teams and the United Way this year, which is bringing for the first time character education at a major scale to schools across the country. We have a program with Mass Mutual Foundation that is going after financial literacy particularly for young kids. I think one of the things that research shows you, if you build into the mindset of kids, the importance of saving, of building wealth, of maintaining a great you know, credit score, these are things that can build on themselves, good or bad, over time. The fact that that’s now being brought to thousands upon thousands upon thousands of schools across the country at no cost is an extraordinary thing. Those are the types of things. The NHL has a really interesting program around stem skills and digital citizenship for kids in middle school and high school across the country. Those are some of the very big ones that we do at a national scale.
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