Chuck Cohn, CEO of St. Louis-based Varsity Tutors, just went to Silicon Valley and did what many start-up CEOs based there often fail to do: score an investment round from top-tier venture capitalists.
And Cohn says he did it in short order, securing $50 million from Mark Zuckerberg's Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Technology Crossover Ventures and Learn Capital after meeting with just 10 potential investors.
The 32-year-old Cohn has now raised $107 million.
Cohn got the money, one of his investors says, by doing something usually associated with Silicon Valley but doing it far from America's technology capital: growing a company for close to a decade using his own capital and a small team.
"This was not Stanford, not Silicon Valley, where leaving (a prestigious university or a good job) to start your own company is a badge of honor," said Technology Crossover Ventures partner Woody Marshall, who led his firm's early investments in Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb. "This was in St. Louis."
It also helped Cohn's cause that Varsity Tutors is attacking a retail market that Marshall says is worth $15 billion annually and is about to be upended by the internet.
"They're taking an analog process and putting it online. An instant tutoring session is a new construct," Marshall said.