community round

CASE STUDY

Letting Teachers and Parents Invest

How Synthesis filled up its $5M Community Round with a single email

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  • In April 2022, on top of a $12M financing roundled by investor Balaji Srinivasan and Amjad Masad, CEO of Replit...
  • Synthesis opened a $5M Community Round for teachers and parents…
  • With a single email, they filled up $5M in reservations within 3 days
  • While growing their waitlist by 20% and job applications by 200%
  • And turning 1000+ parents and teachers into owners.

LETTING PARENTS AND TEACHERS INVEST!

We’ll have Synthesis COO Charles Harrison take it from here →

Charles Harrison headshot

What is Synthesis?

Synthesis is a novel online learning experience where students ages 8 to 14 compete in complex, team-based games and simulations. Kids from across the globe collaborate to practice what Synthesis founders Joshua Dahn and Chrisman Frank consider the world’s most valuable skill: solving problems with a team.

At the time of writing (June 2022), Synthesis has over 6000 active students and another 5000 on the waitlist. But that waitlist won’t be there forever—the team’s mission is to eventually make Synthesis accessible to every child in the world.

Turn on your sound if you can, and listen to the students describe Synthesis in their own words:

When we learned about Community Rounds, we were most excited about giving regular people like ourselves the opportunity to invest at the same exact terms as venture capitalist insiders.

Charles HarrisonCOO at Synthesis

We decided to raise a Community Round because it’s aligned with our values as a company.

Synthesis originated from Ad Astra, the experimental school that Elon Musk hired Josh Dahn to create for the children of SpaceX engineers. In 2020, Josh partnered with our CEO Chrisman Frank to turn the best ideas from Ad Astra into a program for kids around the world.

When we learned about Community Rounds, we were most excited about giving regular people like ourselves the opportunity to invest at the same exact terms as venture capitalist insiders.

Since the beginning, we’ve also gotten inbound interest from teachers and families to be more involved with our growth and success. We saw a Community Round as the perfect option to bring them on board.

In the time it had taken to drive to the restaurant, we had blown past $1 million of interest.

Charles HarrisonCOO at Synthesis

Every step of the round was a happy surprise

Just 24 hours after meeting the Wefunder team for the first time, they had set up our landing page to a standard that our founders approved to launch right away. We originally set out to raise $2.5 million dollars, thinking that maybe we’d be able to raise $1 million from our customers and teachers, and then $1 million more once we announced it to the general public.

At the end of a long day, we launched by sending an email to our customers and teachers. Then we were like, "Okay, it's done. Let’s close up our laptops and get dinner." We got to the dinner table, just talking and hanging out, and then I looked at my phone. In the time it had taken to drive to the restaurant, we had blown past $1 million of interest.

All of a sudden, we were back on Slack with the founders and sharing live updates, unable to look away. We put our phones down for a moment to order appetizers. By the time the appetizers came, we were at $2 million. And by the time we’d finished our entrees and ordered dessert, we had maxed out the $2.5 million.

That’s when I had to get back on the phone with the founders and Andres to decide what to do. On one hand, we didn’t want dilution. But really, we were so happy with the support we got from the community, and we had so many amazing comments on the Wefunder page from our customers, that the founders made the decision to flat-out double it.

So, we opened the Community Round up to the $5 million Reg CF limit, and we hit it in a couple more days. The response from parents and teachers was overwhelming. We were flooded with emails, flooded with interest.

We wish we could have done the whole $17 million round all on crowdfunding because of how easy it was, and how exciting it was for everybody.

Why did people invest?

"We enrolled our Son in Synthesis a year ago and we are very impressed with the system, the approach towards education and the impact we have witnessed on our son."

Maria Corina Rodriguez face

Maria Corina Rodriguez

"Super invested in the future of the education. I'm a teacher there and see how the families love it."

Jervis A Hudson face

Jervis A Hudson

"I believe in Synthesis's approach on education and I share and enjoy the passion of Synthesis Team. As a parent I get to experience my child's growth as a creative critical thinker in a rich environment where mistakes lead to success."

Damelis Cruz face

Damelis Cruz

Reflections on the round

We knew that our customers loved us, but we had no idea we’d see this level of support borne out through an investment vehicle. It’s completely different from asking your customers what they think of you on a survey. On a survey, of course they’re going to say, “Oh, we love it—great job— thumbs up!” But that’s totally different from saying, “It is really so great that I would put down my money—my own, hard-earned money—not wealthy VC money.” So when the response was overwhelmingly supportive, it was incredible validation of what we've worked so hard for.

94% of investors were non-accredited, and 60% of investors invested <$1000. When I first saw we had raised $1 million, I had thought, “Oh no, that's probably just one person.” We have some customers who are billionaires that you would know in the headlines, and we didn't want them to take over the Community Round. But I was really thrilled to see that apart from just a couple checks for $100,000, everything else was small check sizes. We really got support from the community, and we let the average investor like myself in on the opportunity, which was our goal.

Because the economy's getting rough out there, our community’s support will allow us to keep improving our product. Having that extra $5 million to hire the engineers, the designers, the builders, and the innovators—it's a game changer for us. Without it, we would be worried about what we’d do if we ran out of money, worried about whether we could sustain ourselves as a company. We wouldn't be able to hire the talent we need to build out these amazing simulations. It’s a big deal for us, and the timing couldn't be better.

Because the economy's getting rough out there… having that extra $5 million to hire the engineers, the designers, the builders, and the innovators—it's a game changer for us

Charles HarrisonCOO at Synthesis

Second-order effects included hiring and acquisition

1. We saw a 200% uptick in the number of job applications to Synthesis in the week following our Community Round launch. Our community is filled with very talented, amazing people, some of whom joined our team or introduced talent to our team after investing. In addition, letting people see our culture through the fact that we were willing to do a Community Round attracted talent that shares those same values.

2. We hired 5 new full-time employees (about 8% of our workforce), and we hired 92 teachers (about 25% of that team). Due to the surge in applications and referrals, we’ve gotten fantastic team members out of the Community Round.

3. Our waitlist size grew by about 20%. Of course, the Community Round helped us get our name out there, which helped bring in new customers.

We wish we could have done the whole $17 million round all on crowdfunding because of how easy it was, and how exciting it was for everybody.

Charles HarrisonCOO at Synthesis

Summary

Synthesis raised $5,643,343 from 1,338 investors during their Wefunder Community Round.

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Snapshot of Synthesis' Community Round (source wefunder.com/synthesis)

The Raise

  • $5M in first 3 days
  • 100% of investors were customers or staff
  • 94% of investors were non-accredited
  • $1,000 was the most frequent check size

With the raise

  • $12M funding round led by investor Balaji Srinivasan and Amjad Masad, CEO of Replit

After the raise

  • 20% growth in waitlist
  • 200% surge in job applications
  • 342 praises from their community

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