Tinkergarten® Fuels Expansion with $1.6m Seed Round Led by Omidyar Network

Tinkergarten draws backing from mission-aligned investors who see its technology and innovative workforce model as a means to bring high quality, early childhood learning to families in communities everywhere.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. & NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – March 18, 2016—Tinkergarten, the leading provider of outdoor early childhood education, today announced that it has raised $1.6 million in seed financing led by Omidyar Network, with participation from Blue {Seed} Collective, City Light Capital, 500 Startups, and Outbound Ventures. This group joins early investors including Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Structure Capital and individual investors John Katzman (Princeton Review, 2U, Noodle), Don Katz (Audible), Matt Glickman (BabyCenter), Fern Mandelbaum (Vista Venture Partners, Stanford) and Albert Lee (MyFitnessPal).

This week, Tinkergarten also surpassed the 100 leader mark, with classes running across 14 states—a significant growth from the 4 leaders in New York City parks just a year ago. Co-founder Meghan Fitzgerald ran the original class in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Tinkergarten brings quality early childhood education to communities via delightful, play-based classes. The program’s quality and success stem from the combination of several factors. First, Tinkergarten’s curriculum emphasizes open-ended play and incorporates research-based methods to engage kids in building creativity, problem solving, persistence, and other skills they’ll need to flourish in school and beyond. The exceptional teaching staff, called ‘leaders,’ are trained and empowered to run their classes with the goal of improving children’s learning outcomes. Additionally, parents or caregivers are welcomed as “guides,” becoming engaged in the experience and learning how to support their child’s independent learning in and out of class. Tinkergarten is supported by a scalable technology platform used to recruit, train and deploy leaders, and to enroll and communicate with families. The funds from this seed round will be used to fuel the company’s expansion to new communities nationally.

“We’re thrilled to be backed by well known, mission-aligned investors, who will help us achieve our goal to make high quality, early childhood education available everywhere” said Brian Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO.

Tinkergarten has been rolling out its program to a number of major U.S. markets including the greater New York Metro Area, San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Los Angeles, in addition to a range of locations across the country. Tinkergarten launches new markets by certifying new leaders who want to bring the program to their community and build a local business. All leaders are active community members, most often parents, with a variety of backgrounds in education, business, public service, science, the arts, and more. The company allows anyone to nominate a leader in their community or elsewhere (https://tinkergarten.com/nominate). Candidates are taken through a rigorous vetting process, and the company selects the best candidates. Once accepted, the leader receives significant training, technology tools to market and manage classes, coaching, learning materials, and ongoing support for running their classes.

“Tinkergarten is addressing the large social issue of quality in early childhood education through an innovative business model and a strong founding team,” said Isabelle Hau, venture partner at Omidyar Network. “We are particularly excited about Tinkergarten’s flexible workforce model that attracts entrepreneurial people and empowers them as leaders to deliver positive outcomes for children and families. In many ways, Tinkergarten’s model could represent the future of work in early childhood.”

Tinkergarten is enrolling families now for Spring 2016 classes with new leaders in their major markets and additional locations including Austin, Portland, and Seattle, as well as Maryland, Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

For coverage of this announcement, please see the article in the Wall Street Journal.