RONALD PACKARD began his career at Goldman Sachs, but after earning his MBA, he switched to consulting giant McKinsey. His work drew the attention of Michael Milken, who was launching an education investment fund and offered Packard the post of senior vice president for the Knowledge Universe Learning Group. Milken then named him CEO of Knowledge Schools, a chain of pre-schools.
After searching for high-quality math supplements for his own daughter, Packard wrote a business plan to create an entire school online. He began securing capital, including $10 million from Milken and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. By 2001, he had raised $41 million from individual investors and begun serving children in Pennsylvania and Colorado through K12, a virtual public school. The firm expanded; it provides materials and tutoring, a private online academy, and programs for individual public school districts. K12, which went public in December 2007, now has 900 employees serving over 50,000 students in 21 states.