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'Completely surreal': Varsity Tutors' parent company becomes St. Louis' newest public company

It started 15 years ago at Washington University in an introduction to entrepreneurship course. Now, it's traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

ST. LOUIS — By his own account, Varsity Tutors founder Chuck Cohn says the edtech startup had humble beginnings.

It started 15 years ago at Washington University in an introduction to entrepreneurship course. Cohn financed the firm initially thanks to a $1,000 loan from his parents.

Varsity Tutors, which was eventually founded in 2007, has come a long way since those early days. On Tuesday, it became St. Louis’ newest public company.

“I certainly had no idea that it could become this,” said Cohn, reflecting on the company’s origins.

Nerdy, the parent company of Varsity Tutors, on Tuesday began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “NRDY.” Its debut on the public market is the result of a business combination, which closed Monday, with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) TPG Pace Tech Opportunities. SPACs are created with the intent of raising capital through an initial public offering, then using the proceeds to acquire a private company and take it public.

Varsity Tutors debuted initially as a tool to connect people with in-home tutoring and test prep. It has since become what it describes as a "live learning company," offering an array of online tools for everything from immersive online instruction to self-study. Cohn, Nerdy’s chairman and CEO, launched the company as a student at WashU after having difficulty finding a tutor for one of his courses.

“This has been the moment we have been building toward since 2015 when we first raised institutional capital. We now have a durable company with exciting, robust growth vectors and we feel really well positioned for what’s ahead,” Cohn said.

Though Tuesday was the company's first day as a public company, the SPAC that preceded it was already trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Its shares closed Monday at $11.20. By Tuesday afternoon, trading under NRDY, it gained 2.6% to $11.50 per share.

Click here for the full story from the St. Louis Business Journal.

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