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February 11, 2019

ETS and Village Capital Announce Joint Investments in Two Startups: Knack, NurseDash

(San Francisco, CA) — ETS (Educational Testing Service), the world's largest private nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization, announced today that it has made joint investments in two early-stage education startups alongside VilCap Investments, a venture capital fund affiliated with Village Capital.

The two investments are ETS’ latest effort to advance its mission as a non-profit leader by supporting in market-based solutions to education challenges. Knack is bridging the gap between postsecondary education and employment through peer to peer tutoring while NurseDash is improving retention among healthcare clinicians by providing them with more flexibility over their work schedules.

“We’ve been innovating at ETS for 70 years — but we need to innovate around the way we innovate,” said Scott Weaver, ETS Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer. “There are big challenges in education right now that require our immediate attention, like raising literacy levels, increasing access to high-quality teachers and clearing pathways to careers in STEAM. These are not new problems, but they do demand new solutions. And importantly, they demand new frameworks of thinking. That’s why ETS, for the first time in our 70-year history, has decided to get involved with funding startups.”

“We collaborated with Village Capital because we were impressed with their model to democratize the venture capital process, by putting the power of investment in the hands of the entrepreneurs themselves,” he added.

Knack and NurseDash were selected for investment by a group of peer entrepreneurs on the final day of Education US 2018: Bridging the Skills Gap, a four-month venture development program managed by Village Capital in collaboration with ETS, AT&T, BlackRock and Lumina Foundation. The twelve entrepreneurs in the program evaluated each other through an investor lens, using eight specific investment criteria that leverage Village Capital’s Abaca Pathway, and Knack and NurseDash were ranked “most investment ready”. The two companies are focused on the following:

  • Knack (Tampa, FL) is the leading peer tutoring platform that helps universities boost student retention, engagement, and college-to-career outcomes
  • NurseDash (Houston, TX) is a marketplace for nurses that enables healthcare clinicians to access wider selection of assignments and earn additional income with more flexibility over their schedule.

“There are millions of unfilled jobs in the US, at the same time that nearly half of Americans consider themselves underemployed,” said Allie Burns, Managing Director, Village Capital. “There appears to be a deep mismatch between jobs that are available and workers with the skills that are necessary for those jobs. Knack, NurseDash, and the other companies in our program are empowering workers and helping build pathways to the middle class.”

Education US: 2018 was Village Capital’s fourth US-based program designed for seed-stage startups in education, and our third year in a row focused on higher education and workforce development. At each workshop, the entrepreneurs were introduced to investors and mentors who offered them strategic advice and feedback. Entrepreneurs who complete a Village Capital program raise 173% more capital and generate 28% more revenue than a control group.

The full list of companies in the Education US 2018 cohort were:

  • Boon (Los Angeles): enables companies to automate their employee referral process by leveraging employee networks to provide a more consistent, reliable, and effective way to source talent
  • Knack (Tampa, FL): the leading peer tutoring platform that helps universities boost student retention, engagement, and college-to-career outcomes
  • Next Play (San Francisco, CA): enables the world’s professionals to have equal access to career advancement and mentorship opportunities at their workplace
  • NurseDash (Houston, TX): is a marketplace for nurses that enables healthcare clinicians to earn additional income and gain more hands-on experience
  • Parker Dewey (Chicago, IL): connects college students with employers through paid micro-internships
  • Quartolio (New York, NY): an AI-powered knowledge management platform that accelerates research by connecting the dots across scientific articles, clinical trials, and patents
  • Quinncia (Boston, MA): an AI-based job preparation platform for students to get automated feedback on their resumes and interview skills based on computerized interviews
  • Sorcero: (Washington, DC): learning solutions company that provides AI-assisted workforce training and knowledge solutions
  • Spotkew Technologies (Atlanta, GA): truck-driver exchange platform for the trucking industry
  • Wisr (Cleveland, OH): student and alumni networking platform that matches every student with impactful alumni and advisors, leveling the playing field for students
  • Workhound (Des Moines, IA): real-time feedback platform for frontline workers
  • Yobs Technologies (Los Angeles, CA): soft skills assessment tools for hiring to remove costly bias from talent acquisition and development

For more information, reach out to Rustin Finkler at Village Capital ( or Jason Baran ( at ETS.

About Village Capital

Village Capital helps entrepreneurs bring big ideas from vision to scale. Our mission is to reinvent the system to back the entrepreneurs of the future. Our vision is a future where business creates equity and long-term prosperity. Since 2009, we have supported more than 1,000 early-stage entrepreneurs through our investment readiness programs. Our affiliated fund, VilCap Investments, has invested in more than 100 program graduates, including 9 early-stage US education companies like Landit, Pairin, and Upswing.

About ETS

At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, and by conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC ® tests, the GRE ® tests and The Praxis Series ® assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 10,000 locations worldwide.

About Lumina Foundation

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.


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