'Chance of a Lifetime' for Founder

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Advantage Schools founder Steven F. Wilson is a man with a mission.

In the 1980s, he started two technical companies that automate scientific and industrial processes.

Then, as the executive co-director of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank in Boston, he wrote the 1992 book Reinventing the Schools: A Radical Plan for Boston and helped draft the Bay State's charter school law, adopted in 1993. As a special assistant to then-Gov. William F. Weld, the Harvard graduate oversaw aspects of the law's implementation and expansion.

He left the the Republican governor's administration in 1996 and launched Advantage with the aim of becoming a national player on the school management scene.

"I just itched to be back in a start-up," said Mr. Wilson, 40. "I saw this as the chance of a lifetime, to be doing a start-up engaged in something that matters and is as compelling as urban education. It was just irresistible. The private sector has a lot of intelligence and resources to add to this and should be welcomed."

But Mr. Wilson's mission has been far from welcomed by teachers' unions and anti-privatization groups in his home state of Massachusetts. Critics especially take issue with the fact that he could profit from the charter school law he helped write.

The detractors don't appear to be hindering the company's growth, however. Since its founding, the privately held company has attracted $35 million in venture capital, including $17 million this year from Chase Capital Partners in New York City.

"Steven and the management team were a large part of why we invested in Advantage," said Stephen P. Murray, a general partner at Chase who sits on Advantage's board of directors. "And the model clearly provides for the opportunity to make money."

—Lynn Schnaiberg

Vol. 19, Issue 15, Page 14

Published in Print: December 8, 1999, as 'Chance of a Lifetime' for Founder
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