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Cache Flow Podcast

E58: From Startup to EdTech Powerhouse: A Year in Review

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Dive into this exhilarating episode as Ignite!’s CEO Jessica Sliwerski returns to unpack an extraordinary year of 5X growth, pivotal Series B funding, and a seismic impact on student reading. Discover how Ignite! Reading is changing the game for kids nationwide. It’s a heartfelt saga of innovation, human-centric tech, and a mission to mold the future of education.

Here are a few topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Cache Flow Podcast.
  • 5X company growth in just a year.
  • Over 16,000 students served nationally.
  • Raised a game-changing Series B.
  • Honestly human-driven teaching success.
  • Rigorous tutor certification process.
Connect with Jessica Sliwerski:
Connect with our host, Brian Dainis:
  • 11:22 –  It’s not because anyone is evil, it’s because the system isn’t designed in a way that is going to make “the main thing” the main thing. And so nobody’s really, it’s like if no one’s accountable and it’s not the thing that every single person is obsessing about, then yeah, this is gonna keep happening. So that’s one part of the problem historically.
  • 25:48 – So I often feel like I’m such an imposter because I run a tech company and I can’t even, you know, figure out how to make Netflix work on my television in my living room. And so the answer to your question is that in terms of the experience for the customer, it is a deeply human experience because it’s tutors that are, you know, video conferencing through our secure platform meeting one-on-one with kids and doing direct instruction that is synchronous, there is no app per se. And what we figured out how to do adding ignite reading that is unique in our space is how to scale something that is so human intensive. And typically in EdTech, what you have are a lot of software products and it’s pretty easy to scale a software product, but the problem is that you can’t get the quality of outcomes because the act of learning to read is hard.
  • 26:59 – Humans don’t like to do hard things. And so when you put an asynchronous app in front of a little kid in a classroom and you say, do this for 15 to 20 minutes a day and that’s how you’re gonna get extra support to learn how to read, that’s not gonna work. It’s gonna work for a very small percentage of kids who are hyper compliant and for whom learning to read is not hard. So they’re just gonna do the app, but for the vast majority of kids, it’s going to look like a head on a desk and them just pressing buttons and not otherwise engaged. And so what we’ve had to figure out is how to scale something that is so heavily reliant on humans and what our flywheel is for the recruitment, the development, the ongoing performance management and the quality control of this tutor force that as of today is, you know, about 1300 part-time employees.
  • 28:04 –  It’s like a classic like entrepreneur problem where you know, you have this idea, I wanna help all these kids learn to read and I wanna teach non-educators to be tutors and they’re gonna meet virtually and it’s gonna be amazing. And then you start building it and you’re like, oh sh*t, these are people, there’s a whole HR side to this that is no small thing that we have to figure out. And we now need to back into all of these pieces around how do you recruit and not just recruit but recruit a diverse tutor force because we want kids to be able to see people who look like them or, you know, affirm their identities and cultures or speak their home language.
  • 58:30 – I’ve always been someone in like building companies that’s, you know, been one of the first employees and I thought it was cool when we got to 30 people and I thought it was cool when we got to 60 people and now we’re at a hundred people and it’s still only just the beginning and it’s kind of wild to think about where we could be this time next year. And there’s this part of me that is like, can I do this? You know, like imposter syndrome is particularly with my inner voice, I mean, it is just, it, it’s real and I’ve learned to embrace it.
  • 59:28 – But to be a good CEO more than just vision, you also have to surround yourself with a good team. So you’ve got this amazing vetting process for your tutors. It sounds like you probably bet for people who share your vision and your passion for the mission as well for your internal employees. And you’ve already, you know, we were talking about the metrics on the tutor pipeline and you’re like actually I have a person that handles that and I don’t really know. And that’s actually a good thing for a CEO in my opinion. I think the better you are at delegating and letting go of certain details or certain details that if it’s related to vision and strategy, the CEO in my opinion should continue to own. But I think, you know, when you get into the minutia, the better you are at letting go and delegating to competent people that you trust, the more effective you’re gonna be at building a big company.

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Episode Sponsor

This episode is sponsored by Curotec, a software development solutions provider, offering both project-based application development and staff augmentation services. Global top consulting experts in Laravel, Vue.js, and enterprise WordPress development services. Contact Curotec today to discuss your next development project, or to augment your in-house team with top talent. 

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