ApprenNet merges with SF edtech startup, but Philly office is here to stay


Edtech startup ApprenNet is merging with a San Francisco company called Handsfree Learning. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company will keep the ApprenNet name and its Philly office, but it’s getting a new CEO: Paul Freedman, cofounder of Handsfree.

Freedman replaces Rachel Jacobs, ApprenNet’s former CEO who died tragically in the Amtrak crash in May.

Former ApprenNet CEO Rachel Jacobs. (Courtesy photo)

The merger is bittersweet, said ApprenNet’s chief customer officer and cofounder Emily Foote, because it was Jacobs who set it into motion.

Jacobs met Freedman at the ASU+GSV Summit, an edtech startup conference, shortly after she took the role of CEO at ApprenNet. The two companies played to each other’s strengths and weaknesses (ApprenNet is focused on teaching soft skills, while Handsfree is focused on hard skills; ApprenNet’s development team is focused on web, Handsfree is focused on mobile), and their missions and visions for their companies were similar. It made sense.

It’s exciting to bring Jacobs’ vision to fruition, Foote said, but it’s sad that she’s not here to see it.

ApprenNet will continue to seek funding, Foote said.

The company will have offices in Philly and San Francisco, where Freedman is based. The merger also brings a new leadership team to ApprenNet, with Foote as chief customer officer, plus Josh Salcman leading product development and Nestor Toro leading engineering. Both Salcman and Toro came from Handsfree and will be based in San Francisco.

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Mangi Tshikomba is a technology entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of Things Technologies and founding editor of He is a OYW Ambassador, Queens Young Leader and Brightest Young Minds Alumni. He holds BSc(Hon) Civil Engineering from Wits University, Jhb and Leadership Certificate from certificate from Cambridge University, UK. His interests are in Entrepreneurship, EdTech and Early Childhood Development (ECD).