Everyday Learning Corp.
(now a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill)

Management:  CEO Jo Anne Schiller (when a private company)

Lead Venture Capital Partner:  ARCH Venture Partners

Headquarters: Columbus, OH (today); Chicago, IL (when private)

Web site:  www.MHEonline.com

When Jo Anne Schiller oversaw Everyday Learning Corp., a publisher of educational material, every day proved a learning experience for the entrepreneur. The businesswoman, who was in the education field, had been recruited by ARCH Venture Partner's co-founder Robert Nelsen as the start up's initial CEO in 1988 to commercialize and market University of Chicago Professor Max Bell's revolutionary K-6 math curriculum. Initially, that seemed a daunting assignment since Bell's concept, very effective in a research environment, didn't seem to have commercial appeal.

But that's when ARCH Venture Partners came to Schiller's rescue. The Chicago provider of seed and early-stage venture capital for tech firms was just getting started back then and, indeed, Nelsen had identified Bell's promising math project as a commercial venture. ARCH gave Schiller $170,000 for Everyday Learning as ARCH's third portfolio company. That plus $50,000 from the Evanston Business Investment Corp. served as her initial funding.

That amount wasn't very much, Schiller says, "especially when you considered that most publishers put upward of $50 million into the development of their math program. Still, the timing proved ripe since the educational field signaled it was the time to publish a different kind of math program.

Snapshot of Everyday Learning 

  • Bob Nelsen, co-founder of ARCH Private Ventures, identified University of Chicago Professor Max Bell's promising math project.
  • Nelsen then recruited Jo Anne Schiller in 1988 to shepherd the fledgling company
  • ARCH Private Ventures furnished start-up funds, business counsel, expertise.
  • After initial year, sales doubled each year as new math programs got released. 
  • Tribune Company bought it in 1995; sales further rose.
  • McGraw-Hill bought company in 2000.   

The company began with a kindergarten program and a teacher-development program and a few customers. First-year revenues were $100,000 and that climbed to $500,000 in the second year when the first-grade math program was published. Everyday Learning broke even that second year, and revenues began to double every year, enabling the company to support itself from just its revenue.

Again, ARCH proved a great partner. It provided the company with a start-up structure and was willing to look at a 110-year time frame, if necessary. It guaranteed Schiller's bank note when it exceeded Everyday Learning's assets due to seasonal book-purchasing factors. That guarantee, she says, was even more important than the need for a second funding. ARCH also provided a lawyer who worked with the venture capital firm's companies, and he gave welcome legal support as Everyday Learning incorporated and filed for patents and copyrights.

Schiller also found the perfect sales-and-marketing chief in Tom Wise, who had taken early retirement a couple of years before. He hired retired sales reps who knew the territory and educational customers, and they became the industry's first independent reps selling a core curriculum. But sales took off, climbing to about $14 million by 1995, and helped by the publication of the second and third grade math programs. A $5 million National Science Foundation grant to Bell enabled him to begin writing the programs for grades four through six.

As Everyday Learning and Bell were getting started on fifth grade, the Chicago Tribune became interested in the company. The Tribune was starting an educational publishing business and had made a couple of acquisitions. In 1995, Tribune bought the company for $25 million. During the next five years, Everyday Learning completed the math curriculum and began a second edition. It also started a K-12 health curriculum.

In 2000, Tribune sold its educational companies, including Everyday Learning, to McGraw Hill, where the company resides today. By 2005, it was the top-selling elementary mathematics curriculum with an estimated 19 percent of the market.
For Everyday Learning and Schiller, all the numbers added up.