Newsela’s founders were educators who imagined the equivalent of Spotify or Netflix for educational content in schools. They designed their SaaS offering for the practical realities of classroom instruction, seeded it with teachers across the country, and then leveraged teacher advocacy to win district-level contracts. When it looked like their high growth could be derailed by school closings during the pandemic, they pivoted to giving content away to demonstrate solidarity with their customers – and reached two-thirds of all schools in the country. Now Newsela is firmly entrenched in the new normal for K-12 education: laptops for every kid, bandwidth for every classroom, and customized, teacher-friendly content that helps dissolve differences in learning levels among students in the same grade. In this podcast, TCV’s Dave Eichler and Newsela co-founder and CEO Matthew Gross to unpack the secrets of the company’s success:
What separates Newsela from other ed tech companies, both during the pandemic and beyond.
How Newsela turned its users into a vast virtual marketing force.
How to succeed at giving away your product strategically – even if you could still charge for it.
Why playbooks are better than plans in a crisis.
How to overcome cultural and structural barriers to greater diversity in recruiting and hiring.
For all this and much more, settle back and press play.
By early 2020, 13-year-old Varsity Tutors was strongly positioned as the largest live learning platform in the U.S., dedicated to connecting students and professionals with personalized instruction.
Then the pandemic impacted demand, due to social distancing and parents balancing home-schooling children and working from home. After taking quick action to ensure business continuity, Varsity Tutors went back on offense, expanding its offerings to support customers who were adopting technology at a fast pace.
The company moved its core tutoring business entirely online, vastly increased small class offerings, and introduced new options such as free live large classes. Customers responded enthusiastically and Varsity Tutors kept innovating, with virtual summer camps, engaging content delivered by celebrities, and a new program, School@Home, that can fully replace conventional schooling — including accreditation consultation, so pupils can advance to the next grade. What began as a crisis had become a crucible of creativity.
In the latest episode of Growth Journeys, Heidi Robinson, Chief Product Officer at Varsity Tutors, and TCV Principal Beth Knuppel explore a range of topics that can spark ideas for product leaders everywhere:
How to successfully rally and redirect talent into new responsibilities.
How to “predict the weather” in times of high uncertainty, so you can develop the right products at the right time.
Why looking at your business-like Lego® blocks can unlock greater flexibility and adaptability.
Principles for successful product design and development in an increasingly virtual world.
Why using your own products is the best way to understand your customers.
For all this and much more, settle back and press play.
NEW YORK, March 13, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Leading instructional content platform, Newsela, announced today a $50 million C investment from growth equity firm TCV, who has a history of backing successful content platforms, including Netflix and Spotify. Newsela will use these funds to accelerate its rapidly expanding footprint in schools across the country. With over 20M students and 1.8M teachers on the platform, Newsela is now being used in 90% of U.S. schools.
Newsela sources and curates rich, engaging digital content from hundreds of partners, making it accessible and personalized to student interests. Teachers rely on Newsela as a trusted source to help them move past lecturing and deliver a more modern social learning approach that fosters deeper connections with every student in the classroom, piques their curiosity, and enables discussion.
The investment from TCV will also fuel expansion of Newsela’s new Custom Collections offering, allowing districts to customize materials that match their unique curriculum standards.
“At TCV, we focus on finding transformative EdTech companies, and Newsela has proven to be a tool that boosts learning outcomes,” said Woody Marshall, General Partner at TCV. “Our investment will help extend the platform and make it more accessible and even more valuable to students, teachers, and administrators. We are especially excited by the great engagement and feedback that Newsela already has with their users.”
As part of the transaction, Woody Marshall, a General Partner at TCV, has joined Newsela’s Board of Directors.
“Today’s digital-savvy kids have unprecedented access to content they care about. But in the classroom, they’re often limited to textbooks and other outdated, inflexible materials that aren’t engaging. Most teachers resort to piecing together content found in web searches, which is not sustainable. This lack of relevant, safe, reliable and accessible materials has created a massive engagement gap in our schools. The future of education lies in closing this gap,” said Matthew Gross, CEO of Newsela.
“With high-speed broadband now ubiquitous and 1:1 computing (a non-shared laptop available to every student) the norm in classrooms, school districts are actively seeking solutions to this problem. They’re increasingly choosing Newsela to provide safe, trusted, accessible and engaging content and assessments, while giving teachers the freedom to personalize for their students’ interests and needs. With this investment from TCV, we will scale efforts to help districts turn their technology infrastructure into quantifiable results that improve learning outcomes.”
For more information about Newsela or to join the team, visit Newsela.com.
Newsela is an Instructional Content Platform that combines engaging, leveled content with integrated formative assessments and insights to supercharge engagement and learning in every subject. Students and teachers use Newsela to find digital content from 100+ of the best sources—from National Geographic to NASA, Biography.com to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Washington Post to the Wichita Eagle. Content is instructionalized to meet students where they are, with interactive tools and analytics to take them where they want to go. Newsela has become an essential solution for schools and districts, with a presence in over 90% of U.S. K-12 schools. Newsela is the content platform for the connected classroom. www.newsela.com
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $11 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Sportradar, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, WorldRemit and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.