Rocketship Education's Preston Smith Becomes CEO; John Danner to Launch Edtech Company

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Serial entrepreneur and Rocketship Education cofounder, John Danner, is on the move again. He officially announced today that he’s stepping aside as CEO as he is “currently in the early stages of starting up a new online company, and will partner with Rocketship in its development.” Current Rocketship president (and also co-founder) Preston Smith will assume the CEO title.

Danner is being coy about the focus of his next venture, only sharing with us that he’s “working on solving the student-centered learning problem we've faced at Rocketship and [that we] hope to make that solution available to everyone.” He’s got a great testbed at Rocketship, where its unique staffing model and Learning Labs have garnered praise for raising results on California standardized tests.

Before founding Rocketship, Danner had helped start several other charter management schools, along with Internet advertising company, NetGravity. He’s infused that entrepreneurial energy into Rocketship, which has energetically tested and explored scores of educational technology products from small and large companies. Other Rocketship staff have also headed down the startup path, too: for instance, Justin Su, who helped lead Rocketship’s first technology lab, is now helping run edtech startup, Goalbook.

By contrast, Rocketship’s new CEO, Smith, who cofounded Rocketship with Danner, has a strong education background. He began as a Teach For America corp member at an East San Jose elementary school. He also spent three years as principal of an elementary school he founded in San Jose.

Danner calls this “an exciting time...I’m a start-up guy at heart--and I am excited to solve online learning problems for Rocketship and teachers and students around the world.”

Since last October, Danner’s been actively scratching the entrepreneurial itch on his blog, offering insights on the edtech entrepreneurship and lessons learned from his days with NetGravity, Dreambox, and Rocketship. He’s devoted a series of posts on his recent week-long trip visiting schools and edtech startups in India. (Here’s a recap from Indian nonprofit, Central Square Foundation, about Danner’s latest trip to Delhi and Mumbai.) Danner wrote about how India’s efforts to create scalable, affordable education with technology compares to efforts here in the U.S. He concludes one of his posts with:

“...the strong desire for learning in India, the desire to use technology, the competitiveness of the affordable schools, the enormous leverage needed to allow teachers to teach 400 students each, and the hardware/connectivity plans could make India a big early adopter.”

Danner’s enthusiasm for India has been stoking rumors that he’s going to move. He’s told EdSurge that any move to India is at least 18 months out, until his latest venture gets momentum.

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