The New School
Seesaw is used in three-fourths of all U.S. schools by educators such as Jennifer Montemayor, a kindergarten teacher in San Antonio.
Carl Sjogreen could tell early on that the Covid-19 pandemic was going to affect his business. It didn’t take long before he found out just how much.
In January, Sjogreen saw that his education app, Seesaw, was experiencing a drastic uptick in new accounts in Asia. By the following month, some students were posting projects on it at 10 times the normal frequency. As schools there closed, Seesaw became a link for at-home students to their teachers, projects, and classmates. The company’s 55-person, San Francisco-based team quickly built features that would ease the app’s transition from the physical classroom to a virtual learning environment.
Their hard work paid off, helping traffic and usage soar even further when, within weeks, a wave of U.S. schools shut their doors as well. But the sudden growth made it hard for the five-year-old company to scale its servers on some days. Meanwhile, Seesaw had to abide by a San Francisco city order to stay out of the office. Its employees—many former early-career teachers—suddenly needed to collaborate virtually to meet the surging demand.
Big questions came up over the pricing model’s sustainability as well. Seesaw charges most schools $5.50 per student per year. Was the price still reasonable considering the engagement spike, which required adding servers and hiring more employees? Could the company even hire enough during the pandemic? “It was really like, every week, there was a different sort of critical problem that we had to tackle,” Sjogreen says.
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