ApprenNet merges with SF edtech startup, but Philly office is here to stay - Philly


Jul. 23, 2015 8:01 am

ApprenNet merges with SF edtech startup, but Philly office is here to stay

The merger was set into motion by former ApprenNet CEO Rachel Jacobs, who died in the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia in May.

Drexel's law school, where ApprenNet got its start.

(Photo courtesy of Drexel)

Edtech startup ApprenNet is merging with a San Francisco company called Handsfree Learning. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company will keep the ApprenNet name and its Philly office, but it’s getting a new CEO: Paul Freedman, cofounder of Handsfree.

Freedman replaces Rachel Jacobs, ApprenNet’s former CEO who died tragically in the Amtrak crash in May.


Former ApprenNet CEO Rachel Jacobs. (Courtesy photo)

The merger is bittersweet, said ApprenNet’s chief customer officer and cofounder Emily Foote, because it was Jacobs who set it into motion.

Jacobs met Freedman at the ASU+GSV Summit, an edtech startup conference, shortly after she took the role of CEO at ApprenNet. The two companies played to each other’s strengths and weaknesses (ApprenNet is focused on teaching soft skills, while Handsfree is focused on hard skills; ApprenNet’s development team is focused on web, Handsfree is focused on mobile), and their missions and visions for their companies were similar. It made sense.

It’s exciting to bring Jacobs’ vision to fruition, Foote said, but it’s sad that she’s not here to see it.

ApprenNet will continue to seek funding, Foote said.

The company will have offices in Philly and San Francisco, where Freedman is based. The merger also brings a new leadership team to ApprenNet, with Foote as chief customer officer, plus Josh Salcman leading product development and Nestor Toro leading engineering. Both Salcman and Toro came from Handsfree and will be based in San Francisco.


ApprenNet’s Emily Foote, Karl Okamoto and Paul Tzen. (Courtesy photo)

ApprenNet is also hosting its first user conference, planned for next month at Drexel’s law school. (Foote might take some cues from RJMetrics’ recent Data Jawn event: her husband is RJMetrics staffer David Williams, who helped put the event together.)


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