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Sterling Partners invests in prep school startup

US-based Sterling Partners has invested in Amerigo Education, a startup that partners with high schools in the US to support their international students, while preparing them to apply to study at the country’s top universities.

Lexington Catholic high school, which has partnered with Amerigo EducationAmerigo Education has partnerships with two high schools so far, including Lexington Catholic (above). Photo: Lexington Catholic High School.

“We're focused on launching our initial partners successfully: finding the right students, providing support and refining the model"

The amount was undisclosed but the investment is the third to come out of Sterling Partners’ Education Opportunity Fund, its first ever sector-focused fund, which has a target to invest between $10m and $25m in the education businesses.

“Amerigo is unique in that Sterling Partners really conceived of the business, which isn’t typically how they operate”

Conceived by Sterling Partners, Amerigo launched in 2016 with the goal to work alongside high schools in the US with international students looking to attend a top-200 university in the country.

It works to recruit international students through a global network of on-the-ground staff and agents, and sets up boarding facilities on or nearby high school campuses to accommodate them.

The company then offers supplementary English language training and support with acclimatising to the US education system and preparing to apply to top universities.

So far, Amerigo has partnerships with two high schools, Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Kentucky and Marian Catholic High School in Chicago, Illinois.

A third partner is expected to come on board in time for the 2017 intake and the company has already laid the groundwork with potential partners for the following year, CEO Craig Pines told The PIE News. All in all, the company expects to have “several dozen” students enrolled across its initial partner schools for the upcoming year.

Amerigo differs from many of Sterling Partners’ other portfolio companies – including Keypath Education and Laureate Education, which this week launched a $490m IPO – because of the private equity fund’s involvement in the company’s development from the very beginning, Pines explained.

“Amerigo is unique in that Sterling really conceived of the business and started the business, which isn’t typically how they operate,” he said.

Amerigo’s leadership team includes people who previously worked at another of Sterling Partners’ portfolio companies, Meritas schools, who worked to incubate the company with Sterling before Pines joined in August last year.

“We’re putting a lot of energy into building the right team”

Jason Rosenberg, managing director of the Education Opportunity Fund, said the fund is targeting “leaders and companies that are transforming American education”.

“The existence of Amerigo means that international students at a younger age are much better prepared for college and to survive and thrive well beyond,” he commented.

The funding injection will help the company to open up new partnerships and develop its support model, Pines said.

Its focus in the coming year will be more on operational goals than numerical outcomes in terms of partnerships or student numbers, he explained. “It’s our first year, so we’re really focused on launching our initial partners successfully: finding the right students, providing support and really refining the model.”

Expanding Amerigo’s team will also be a priority as the company expands.

“We’re putting a lot of energy into building the right team – they’re the ones who are going to be looking after the students and designing the experience, so if we get that right, everything else will follow.”

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