EVCA Leadership
August 31, 2022

Leadership Spotlight: EdTech Vertical Leads, Gloria Samen and John Azubuike of Owl Ventures

Isaac Snitkoff
EVCA Fellow

The EVCA leadership is dedicated to building community across and empowering the next generation of venture capitalists through an array of activities—from hosting events, knowledge sharing, and connecting others. This EVCA Leadership Spotlight Series is intended to help the broader community get to know what's going on behind the scenes at the EVCA, as well as highlight the valuable contributions of those individuals who make the EVCA possible. Accordingly, it's a great privilege for us to announce this EVCA Leadership Spotlight on our very own EVCA EdTech Vertical Leads, Gloria Samen and John Azubuike of Owl Ventures.

Gloria Samen, Associate at Owl Ventures

Gloria Samen is an Associate at Owl Ventures, the largest venture fund investing in edtech and workforce development with over $2B in AUM. Before joining Owl, Gloria worked as a consultant at Education Resource Strategies, where she partnered with multiple large urban school district leaders in strategizing around equitable resource allocation, strategic planning and school design, and leadership capacity building. Prior to ERS, Gloria was an investor on JP Morgan’s Global Investment Opportunities team working to source, evaluate, and execute tactical and event-driven investment ideas across asset classes for institutional clients. Gloria graduated from Wellesley College with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Africana Studies. In her free time, Gloria enjoys reading novels with her book club and volunteering with youth development organizations such as Lower East Side Girls Club, Girl Up, and the local YMCA.

EVCA: Could you explain more about what you do in your role as EdTech Vertical lead at EVCA?

Gloria: As an EdTech Vertical Lead at EVCA, I plan events focused on knowledge sharing and building community amongst investors who invest in Education Technology and Workforce Development. Our community is almost 80 strong, and geographically spread out across the country so we get to leverage online functionality for events while also popping up in local cities to build community. We are excited to roll out or calendar of events for the rest of the year which will feature happy hours, intimate conversations with GPs, sub-sector deep dives, and more! As a vertical lead, I also support students in our fellowship with their EdTech thesis projects.

EVCA: What made you interested in taking a leadership role at EVCA?

Gloria: I was excited to take a leadership role at EVCA because the edtech landscape continues to expand quickly and we can all learn so much from each other with increased opportunities for knowledge sharing around best practices and deal flow.

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

Gloria: I am bullish on EdTech for Africa. While there are concerns around broadband functionality, propensity to pay, etc., I am interested in the fact that African governments spend about 5% of GDP on education (the second highest of any region), there are increasing sales of smartphones and tablets, and by 2050 over half of the continent will be below 25 years old. When people think about start up activity on the African continent, they often think about the exploding fintech scene, but I am excited to watch as leaders in the EdTech space, such as Sim Shagaya (Founder and CEO of uLesson), continue to pave the way for innovative solutions that can spur increased socioeconomic mobility on the continent.

John Azubuike, Vice President at Owl Ventures

John Azubuike served as one of the EdTech leads for EVCA while he was a Vice President at Owl Ventures. At Owl Ventures, he focused on venture and growth stage investments in education and the future of work. Prior to Owl, he was an investor at Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), where he focused on control transactions, an investor at KEC Ventures, where he focused on seed-stage investments in the NYC area and fund-of-funds alternative investments, and began his career at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, where he worked as a software engineer. In addition to his professional commitments, John serves on the board of A Method Public Schools, a network of 6 charter schools serving 2,000 students in the Bay Area. John is currently pursuing his MBA at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania and received a B.Sc in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University.

EVCA: Could you explain more about what you do in your role as EdTech Vertical lead at EVCA?

John: Together with Learn Capital's Susan Wang and my Owl Ventures colleague Gloria Samen, I helped setup and co-lead EVCA's Edtech vertical. It has been a blast planning the group's kickoff fireside chat and watching folks share their excitement for edtech, workforce development, and the future of work over Slack.

EVCA: What made you interested in taking a leadership role at EVCA?

John: When I joined EVCA back in 2019, edtech was a growing but nascent vertical. Over the next several months, I would get messages from peers at other firms asking about my take on specific edtech companies and the market overall. It was actually one such exchange with Adam Dawkins where the idea of an edtech vertical was born. We were both surprised by how many funds were interested in the vertical and knew that EVCA was uniquely positioned to create a community around that curiosity.

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

John: I think scale expectations for future enterprise software companies will decline. I also think it's going to be harder to build multinational enterprise software companies in the future than it has been over the last 20 years. After covering the HR function and education vertical globally for the last several years, I've found that companies in developed economies are opting for more sector-specific solutions for everything from payments to cybersecurity to ERP software, and companies in developing economies are opting for homegrown solutions that are built with local regulatory, cultural, and infrastructural nuances in mind. As these trends continue, enterprise software companies will find themselves serving more focused markets. This doesn't mean that great returns will be a thing of the past (for all of our sakes, I hope not). More focused markets will translate to faster, more efficient scaling as startups will be building for fewer customers and marketing clearer value propositions to more homogeneous customers. So the smaller TAMs and TEVs will be balanced out by faster growth rates and scaling that is more capital efficient.

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