Every kid deserves a great teacher.
Announcing Lightspeed’s Series B investment in Outschool — the leading marketplace of live, online classes for K-12 students.
“This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.”
— Maya Angelou
A truly great teacher has a lifelong impact on her students.
Most of us can remember a special teacher who made learning feel personal. She somehow took inscrutable subject matter and made it appeal to our interests and passions. She made us feel like she had designed the lesson just for us.
I (Alex) had this experience in high school. I was fortunate to study music theory and composition with a well known choral director. I sang in his student choir, and that student choir would often perform alongside his professional chamber choir Amor Artis. Because Amor Artis toured in the summertime, I got to tag along on various concert trips around the world.
Performing great works of western music in some of the world’s most famous cathedrals and concert halls brought my music lessons to life. My teacher never failed to remind us that what we learned in the classroom was a live artistic medium with hundreds of years of history, and that we were a part of that tradition on that stage each night.
I (Mercedes) was also extremely fortunate to have teachers who unleashed their creative side to transform mundane subjects into engaging lessons at my public schools. My 3rd grade teacher taught us about biodiversity by creating a classroom conservatory of caterpillars. We cared for them all year and, when they turned into butterflies at the end of the year, we let them loose. My 6th grade teacher had us memorize and perform Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to learn history. My 7th grade teacher let us put on a fashion show (we created an elevated catwalk by putting our desks together) for English and the arts class. My 9th grade math teacher taught us geometry by having us build 3-foot tall catapults and launch ice cream and tennis balls onto the field.
I could go on and on. Maybe I was just a nerd (OK, almost certainly). Maybe everyone else hated it. But I vividly recall these lessons decades later and know my education was better for their effort.
More students would be engaged in the education system if they had teachers like these who appealed to their interests. Until recently, if you couldn’t find those teachers in your school, then you missed out on this pivotal experience.
Outschool bridges the engagement gap by connecting students to a global pool of teaching talent.
Amir Nathoo, Nick Grandy, and Mikhail Seregine founded Outschool four years ago to connect students everywhere with teachers who fuel curiosity. In its early years, the company focused predominately on homeschoolers. Homeschoolers are a small, but mighty population of students who are power users of online education. Uniquely serving this early adopter market allowed Outschool to build a vibrant marketplace with deep inventory of live, online classes. Today customers can choose from over 50,000 unique offerings — the largest catalogue of live classes on the internet.
When the pandemic hit America earlier this year, Outschool was uniquely positioned to meet the moment. It grew bookings by more than an order of magnitude over the prior year and still managed to scale its service to many more customers with high customer satisfaction. At a time when teachers’ livelihoods are under severe pressure, Outschool has become a steady source of supplemental income. On average, its teachers earn 3x the typical hourly wage they earn in the classroom. In 2020 to date, the top echelon of teachers earned over $80/hr, up over 30% from 2019. In addition, Outschoolers have found a new home for their interests online and are continuing to use Outschool as a supplement to school, even now that it’s back in session. The pandemic has pulled forward a decade of progress in online education, and Outschool has found itself at the center of that transformation.
Lightspeed is delighted to lead Outschool’s $45M Series B financing, with strong participation from existing investors and friends Jennifer Johnstone Carolan of Reach Capital, Rebecca Kaden of USV, and other long-time supporters. With students all over the country physically disconnected from teachers, the company’s mission has never been more critical. We hope more kids will use Outschool to have a transformative experience with a great teacher, like we both did so many years ago.
One more thing: Outschool is hiring across many roles. Feel free to reach out, or check out the company’s career page here: https://outschool.com/careers