Rhino Invests $22M in Thinkific 🥳

written by

Rhino Ventures

Having first partnered with Thinkific in 2016, we are excited to announce we invested $22M to fund their latest round of financing. In connection with the growth round, Lisa Shields (Co-Founder and CEO of fellow Rhino portfolio company, FISPAN) is joining the board of directors. 

As a knowledge commerce platform enabling entrepreneurs and SMB’s to create, sell, and market online courses, Thinkific’s “business in a box” platform makes it easy for anyone to monetize their knowledge, grow their audience, and scale their business. Thinkific has experienced tremendous growth year after year, which has only been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to back the exceptional Thinkific team as they become the next benchmark story for Canadian tech and lead the transformation of online course delivery. 

As the sole institutional investor in Thinkific, we have had the privilege of working very closely with their team (even colocating in their early days - see below) as they built Thinkific into the infrastructure platform that powers the creator economy.

The Bunker

Office 1.0: “The bunker” was where Rhino and the first ~60 Thinkific employees co-located - it was the definition of gritty and raw. This is where Thinkific and Rhino “grew up” together. 

At Rhino, we try to distill each investment thesis into a digestible paragraph as part of our “why we’ll be right” and pre-mortem process of building investment conviction. Having funded all three investment rounds for Thinkific, we have the rare opportunity to see how our perspective has changed over time:

Investment #1 (2016) - The founding team checks all the boxes (see post). The team is driven by their vision for education unlocking human potential (we think they can go the distance). If online courses = a fraction of what Shopify has accomplished, this is a venture scale opportunity (we think it is). 

Investment #2 (2017) - Big businesses are being built entirely using the Thinkific infrastructure. We see platform potential with this business as the core operating system that underpins online course delivery. The team is hungry and is determined to build an iconic Canadian tech business (thinking atypically big). Growth is exceptional, efficient, and we believe it has depth.

Investment #3 (2020) - Thinkific is the infrastructure layer that enables knowledge commerce entrepreneurs and SMB's to deliver the best experiences at the intersection of education, entertainment, and community. Valuable, highly differentiated companies are being natively built on Thinkific. The company is earnestly positioned to address two converging trends: the rise of the creator economy and the decentralization of education. We view Thinkific as the enablement layer of the creator economy; using its scale to deliver enterprise grade functionality with consumer usability at a disruptive price point. The team is dynamite.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • $13.5m-->$33m ARR in the LTM
  • <$5m paid in capital (prior to this round) = remarkable capital efficiency
  • >$650m of high margin (90%+ creator gross margin) lifetime GMV (~½ of which is from 2020)
  • 50k entrepreneurs and SMB’s powered by Thinkific’s platform 
  • >25m students that have taken a course powered by Thinkific (likely without knowing it!)

The more difficult to convey part of our investment rationale is the high trust bond we have built with the founders and team members at Thinkific. We meet weekly, continue to push one another to be better, and go on occasional treasure hunts...

"Thinkific's Treasure Adventure" - Thinkific & Rhino Team

While we don’t want to spoil the series of exciting developments the company is set to release, we are very optimistic about the future of knowledge commerce enablement and the bar-setting standard that Thinkific sets for the most demanding creators. 

To the next step!

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