Tinkergarten announced on Tuesday it has raised a $5.4 million Series A round of financing led by Owl Ventures, with additional investment from existing investors Omidyar Network (the philanthropic investment firm established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam) and Reach Capital.
“Kids now spend upwards to 8 hours per day in front of a screen. Parents have a strong need to balance that time with healthy […] time outdoors.”
The Northampton, MA-based company uses an online platform to organize outdoor educational activities for kids ages 1-8 years old. A mix of learning and play, activities are conducted by trained “leaders,” people with a passion for teaching who can be educators, scientists, artists or even attorneys.
“This new funding will allow us to invest in people, technology, and marketing,” Brian Fitzgerald, co-founder of Tinkergarten, wrote in an email to BostInno. “Specifically, to find, onboard, train and support even more amazing leaders, as they are the heart of our team and the work we do.”
To recruit more leaders, the company is beginning to partner with companies, organizations and websites that reach parents, teachers, and active community members—anyone who is entrepreneurial, well connected in their community, and would love to work with kids, Fitzgerald explained.
In Massachusetts, there are currently 59 classes available for parents to enroll their kids. All educational activities are designed for parent-and-child teams, meaning that parents are not supposed to drop off their kids. Each class is 8 sessions long and meets one time per week, with a different activity each week.
“Kids now spend upwards to 8 hours per day in front of a screen. Parents have a strong need to balance that time with healthy, rejuvenating, and developmentally stimulating time outdoors,” Fitzgerald wrote. “In our classes, kids learn leadership, problem-solving, persistence, and social and emotional skills and more through well-designed, guided play scenarios—all the skills that parents want to ensure their kids have to navigate the world.”
Currently, Tinkergarten has 12 full-time employees supporting nearly 750 leaders in 47 U.S. states and Washington D.C., with the exclusion of Vermont, North Dakota and Nebraska. Formed in 2014, the company began as a personal project of the two founders, Meghan and Brian Fitzgerald (natives of greater Boston), in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY.
In 2016, Omidyar Network was among the backers of another edtech company based in Massachusetts, Ellevation Education, which develops a web-based software platform that assists with the education of English language learners.