News & Opinion | July 2, 2019 10:57 am

Tech Billionaires Wasted Millions on Failed Education Startup AltSchool

Mark Zuckerberg was among the investors who poured millions into the now flailing project

The dream school of the digital age is shutting its doors
The dream school of the digital age is shutting its doors
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Silicon Valley finally found one wheel it couldn’t reinvent.

AltSchool, the innovative education program launched by tech billionaires and headed by former Google exec Max Ventilla, is essentially shutting down after failing to successfully revolutionize education for the digital age, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Backed by tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel, the startup launched in 2013 promising to provide the next generation of students with the latest innovations in tech-forward education. At AltSchool, students as young as kindergarteners signed in on iPads and received their lessons and activities via a “playlist” of apps while cameras on the walls recorded everything so teachers could review lessons.

The Silicon Valley tech billionaires behind the project poured about $174 million into the startup to get AltSchool off the ground. Last valued at $440 million, the dream school of the digital age is now shutting its doors. AltSchool is rebranding as Altitude Learning, a company that will focus on selling software and providing professional development services.

The school, which began closing its original nine locations back in 2017, will hand its four remaining schools over to Higher Ground Education, which develops tools and programs for Montessori institutions. AltSchool reportedly said the decision was reached by a committee of a 100 parents and faculty.

AltSchool founder Ventilla will step down as CEO and will continue as Altitude Learning’s chairman in what he called “a new chapter” for the startup. “AltSchool is unique in that we were able to devote a considerable amount of resources to (educational)-tech research and development, never forgetting that ‘ed’ should always drive ‘tech,’ not the other way around,” he said in a statement.

From transportation to food service, tech startups have revolutionized their share of industries. But when it comes to education, it may be best to leave it to the professionals.

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