Never Waste a Crisis: How Varsity Tutors Accelerated Product Development to Keep Children Educated During the Pandemic and Beyond

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.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the authors and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Starting from Scratch: Strategies for Success from Netflix and Spotify, for CEOs and CFOs Everywhere

Barry McCarthy was CFO at Netflix and Spotify during periods of explosive growth, and he took both companies public – in different ways. Our latest episode of Growth Journeys pairs exceptional operator Barry McCarthy with veteran investor Woody Marshall, a Spotify board member and TCV General partner. Together they explore how “visionary” founders and CEOs need to be able to see the future while staying grounded in the present, and how strategic CFOs develop their own ability to see around corners and help the team navigate both choppy waters and growth opportunities in finance and operations. McCarthy and Marshall then apply these lessons to the timely topic of managing in a crisis, and the critically important relationship between CEOs and their boards of directors. Take-aways include:

  • Three fundamental leadership qualities exemplified by Reed Hastings and Daniel Ek.
  • How McCarthy learned to staff and task his team for challenges that were still months in the future.
  • How taking risks separates industry leaders from the pack.
  • Why Spotify went public with a direct listing – and why others are following its lead.
  • The single most important adjustment that leaders must make in a crisis.
  • The invisible but essential quality that binds CEOs and their boards of directors

For all this and more, settle back and press play.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the authors and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.