When I was in high school, we held bake sales, car washes, and carnivals to raise money for things like shiny new uniforms and ski trips. Now – at least if you go to school in Silicon Valley – investment opportunities have gotten quite a bit more sophisticated.
And, if I remember the $200 we made after an entire day washing cars in the heat correctly, quite a bit more successful, too.
It all started back in 2012, when venture capitalist Barry Eggers came home to find his children at the kitchen table playing with a new app – Snapchat. In a world bogged down with social media, Snapchat offered something new and just different enough, with its filters and the disappearing content element.
At least that’s what Eggers thought, and he subsequently negotiated a $500,000 investment in the company.
That’s where St. Francis High School (where Eggers’ children go to school) came into play. The school set up a fund in 1990 that aims to tag along with bigger investors who bet on startups – in this case, they chipped in $15k of Eggers $500k investment.
Which, when the company went public last week and they sold 1.4 million of their shares, added up to $24 million in profits. The school is holding on to their remaining 700,00o shares, valued at about $19 million.
School President Simon Chiu recognizes the advantage they have, both in their location and their access to big time investors through their student’s families.
“Silicon Valley is a pretty amazing place to live. This obviously couldn’t have happened anywhere else.”
Before the Snapchat investment, the school’s biggest one-time payout on the fund was $2 million, but Chiu was quick to point out that the school has also lost money in several instances.
Though the investment scheme pays off for St. Francis High, their success also serves to highlight the huge gap in educational funding. Just 10 miles away, in East Palo Alto (a predominantly Latino community), educators struggle with issues like low graduation rates, high homicide rates, and an average income level that’s nearly $100k less than neighboring Palo Alto.
“We don’t have the bandwidth to follow the stock market. It’s tough enough to keep kids on track to graduate,” says Amika Guillaume, principal of East Palo Alto Academy.
What a difference 10 miles makes.
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