Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

398: Education 2.0 with Victoria Ransom of Prisma

October 21st, 2021

Chad interviews Co-Founder and CEO, Victoria Ranson of Prisma. Prisma is a stealth-mode education startup on a mission to reimagine the way children are educated. Their mission is to create a generation capable of solving the world's biggest problems by creating and running a comprehensive virtual learning program for kids in grades 4-8 that is very unlike any other traditional homeschooling program you've ever heard of.

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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Victoria Ransom, founder, and CEO of Prisma. Victoria, thanks for joining me on the show.

VICTORIA: Hi, thanks for having me.

CHAD: So, Victoria, before we jump into this great product that you have, why don't you tell people what Prisma really is.

VICTORIA: Sure. Prisma is a very comprehensive educational program for kids who are learning from home or from anywhere in the world. It is not at all like traditional homeschooling because we provide kids with a very social experience. Kids are part of a cohort where they're meeting live with other kids every single day and collaborating with them on projects, and learning from each other, and discussing. And we provide coaches who are there every step of the way with the kids, providing them with rich feedback, helping to bring out the best in them, providing really engaging, live learning experiences.

So it’s not traditional homeschooling, although it has a lot of the really great benefits of that with the flexibility and the ability to learn from wherever you are. But we're equally not like typical online schooling, which I would say has tended to be more of an approach of taking traditional school and bringing it online. So there's still a concept of lectures, and grades, and textbooks. They may be electronic in nature, but they still resemble textbooks.

The Prisma curriculum is very different. It's rooted in learning through doing and project-based learning, and applying learning to the real world, and allowing kids a lot of choice. So they're ideally always learning through the lens of something that interests them and allowing them to go at their own pace. So a lot of the best practices from some of the most innovative bricks and mortar schools we're bringing to an online environment. And then, of course, we're very different from bricks and mortar schools because it is a virtual program where kids can learn from anywhere.

So we think it's a new approach to education that is really uniquely flexible, really prepares kids. We're very focused on preparing kids for the kind of world they're going to live in. The world is always changing rapidly. But I think this generation of kids is going to experience a future that's unlike anything we've ever seen in terms of the level of shift and change, AI being one of the reasons.

If you look at studies that look at the future of work, I think some studies we've read say 65% of today's elementary school kids will work in jobs that are yet to be invented. So, how do you prepare kids for that kind of future? And so, we're very focused on giving kids the holistic skills and the mindset that they will need to thrive in that kind of world. So yeah, that is Prisma in a very long nutshell.

CHAD: [chuckles] Obviously, I think we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the context of where we're in, which is kids just went through a year or more where a lot of kids were remote for school. And did Prisma exist before the pandemic?

VICTORIA: It did in our minds very much so [chuckles] but not in reality. So Prisma arose out of our own personal needs. So my husband and I are the founders of Prisma. We've actually been entrepreneurs for most of our careers. After successfully selling a company to Google a few years ago, we said whatever we do next in our lives; we want it to be something that has the potential to have a large positive impact on society and on the world. And then struggled to figure out what that should look like because there are a lot of things that need solving in the world.

But we have three children, and as they approached school age, it really caused us to do a deep dive into how do we want to educate our kids? What do we think is the best approach to education? And from that, we started to formulate a vision by looking at all kinds of different schooling models, from homeschooling to micro-schooling to innovative bricks and mortar schooling. We developed a picture for how we wanted to educate our kids. But that really inspired us to create something that could be accessible to many more kids than just our own kids.

And so we had a good 18 months to 2 years of researching, ideating, thinking about the pros and cons of a virtual model. And then along came COVID, and at that point, we said, you know what? There's never been a better time to test out an innovative new approach to schooling, especially one that was always going to be home-based from the get-go. And so let's start ideating and dreaming about this, and let's just put it into action see how it goes. So it was born during COVID, but the roots of Prisma very much predate COVID.

CHAD: So, what was the actual timing there from when you decided to do something? When was that to you had the first students?

VICTORIA: Yeah, that was a whirlwind. [laughs]

CHAD: I can imagine.

VICTORIA: Yeah. So really, it was late March, I think of 2020, when we said, "We've just got to do this. The world is telling us to do this." To when we had our first kids in the door was early September. So between basically the beginning of April to the beginning of September, we incorporated, we refined our vision. The good news is we had a vision, and it was mapped out. We hired a curriculum team, hired coaches, created a website, found our first families, all of that.

And we launched Prisma very clearly with the families saying, "This is a pilot. We're trying something new here. Let's see how this goes." And we actually told the families, "Look, we're going to definitely run this until the end of December, the end of the year. And if it's not going really, really well, then we will suggest you go and do something better." But it went great. It's not to say our model is perfect. And we believe very much in constant improvement and constant iteration.

But in terms of kids loving school at a time, the national narrative was that kids were hating school, and they were falling behind, and parents were finding distance learning a disaster; we had kids that were loving school more than they ever had. And we surveyed kids, and that's why we know that. Parents were extremely happy. Everything was pointing to the fact that we really had found something unique that was really working. And so it turned from a pilot into something that we're now putting all the building blocks in place to be able to scale more broadly.

CHAD: School is a big thing, a big concept, and a very important one. Working so quickly in the midst of a pandemic, you know, launching any product is as much an art and finding what those first features need to be. How did you identify what that is and make sure you had something that was viable but that you could get done on time?

VICTORIA: I think that came down to...because obviously, our product is our curriculum and our model. We have a software development team and a product development team. And they are building the tools that we'll need to run our model. But when we first launched, we were piecing together different tools that already existed. So the initial product really was the curriculum and our model of education and the tools that we pieced together to make it work.

And I think the reason we were able to be successful is that we did a lot of groundwork in saying, what really matters? What is our perspective on what is the goal of this educational model? We got clear on that. What do we think are the values or approaches that really are critical to achieving that goal? And then using that as our Northstar.

So to be more concrete, we were really clear about two things in terms of why we were developing this model. One was we really wanted kids to love learning. We think they should love learning because learning is amazing, and it's exciting. And every kid is born with an innate desire to learn. And that if you want to bring the best out in kids, you want them to be excited about what they're learning. So kids loving learning was a very strong Northstar for us. And the second was what I already talked about before is developing an educational model that will really give kids the skills and mindsets they will need to really thrive in what is an exciting but uncertain future. And so that was the Northstar of why are we doing this.

From that, we developed a clear perspective on okay; if we want kids to love learning, how do we do that? And so it was things like making sure that kids have choice so they can apply their learning to things that really excite them, making sure learning is applied to the real world, so kids are never saying, "Why the heck do I need this?" Making sure that learning is hands-on as possible because we think kids just get more out of it, and learn more, and enjoy it more if they can really be hands-on and project-based. Making sure...I won't go through them all, but we have our sort of core curriculum values, making sure learning is happening in a community-supportive community.

And then the other thing we're really clear on is okay, what are these overarching skills or mindsets that we think are critical to succeeding in adulthood? And it was things like systems thinking and problem-solving, having a designer's mindset, which is this concept of being comfortable with iterating, and getting feedback, and putting yourself in someone else's shoes, being an excellent communicator and collaborator. Again, I won't go through them all. But we were just really clear.

I think we had a really strong foundation of why do we exist and what is our approach here? And that enabled us to then be really clear about things like, okay, we're not going to throw the kitchen sink in terms of everything that kids need to learn, no. We're more focused on overarching skills than checking the box on 1,000 different science standards that kids might need to go through.

So yeah, as you said, I think whenever you launch a product or a company, being able to narrow down because you can't offer everything you want to offer, being able to narrow down to what really matters is important. And I feel like we did a pretty good job with that.

CHAD: Awesome. What was the makeup of the initial team? You mentioned you and your husband. How did you split the responsibilities between you two, and then who else was involved?

VICTORIA: So my husband and I have been co-founders of several companies. And it's worked really well because we have very different skill sets. My husband has much more of a product mind. He's much more detail-oriented. And he has a real eye for design and user experiences and also a creative marketing mind. So that gives you a sense of where he tends to focus. And I've tended to focus more on people management and operationalizing businesses, being more that external spokesperson. And so that's how we have split. He's doing more of the software development and product marketing and marketing side of Prisma. And I'm more involved in the day-to-day running of the program.

Our first two very, very critical hires were curriculum developers, and Prisma would not be what it is today if we hadn't hired the two people that we hired. And they really balanced each other well because we hired Kristen, who had really deep experience in education. She had at a pretty young age founded her own charter school very successfully and just had such super deep experience in education, teaching, teaching teachers, training teachers, managing her own school.

And then we had Emily, who came from a really non-traditional background. She'd actually come up through the theater world, had done a degree at Harvard School of Education. And they actually had some good experience with working with professors at Harvard in innovative ways to assess, also, computer science education. And she's got a very out-of-the-box way of thinking. And between the two of those, it was a really great combination for us to turn what was a vision of a curriculum that Alain and I had created into something actually concrete.

And then the other critical hires were our first coaches. Again, we got super lucky in hiring just really fantastic coaches. And we've now realized hiring great coaches is a very fundamental part of what we do. And in fact, it will be one of our scaling challenges, I think. But again, we got really lucky with our coaches. And then, over time, we've hired operations people and product people. But I think that initial magic of the curriculum team and the coaching team was really important. We wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't have hired those people, I think.

CHAD: Did you bring on the two curriculum team members full-time right away?

VICTORIA: We intended to, I think, when we were still incorporating the business. And all of this was happening in such a rush that I think we technically had to bring them on as contractors. But it was intended as a full-time role. Having said that, our hiring process asked them to sketch out in a fairly in-depth way or at least to sketch out in-depth pieces of what the ultimate Prisma curriculum would look like. So we did have a chance, I think, to test them out fairly well before we committed.

CHAD: So did you take investment to start Prisma, or did you self-fund it?

VICTORIA: We have self-funded. We're super lucky to be in the position to be able to do that, and we are continuing to self-fund. We had a ton of interest from venture capitalists; I think partly because we're somewhat proven entrepreneurs with other successes. And then also, because there was just suddenly a big spotlight on education and the belief that education might really shift.

But we have not taken funding doesn't mean we won't ever. But we're very focused on being mission-first. And we're also very focused on growing carefully and thoughtfully. We think in the long run, we'll be far more successful if we really grow conservatively, at least initially, until we really feel like we've refined this and we know how to keep a really high level of quality and customer satisfaction while scaling. And I think our concern is that sometimes when you take outside capital that that capital might not be as patient. It might really push to grow faster than what we think might be the best approach. So thus far, we're just in the lucky position where we haven't had to take outside capital.

CHAD: I assume that you're on a traditional school schedule based on what you said about starting in September.

VICTORIA: We kind of are actually, which is funny because our initial vision for Prisma was to have it be year-round. And I think our families have been super open to so many innovative things. But the idea of having a summer break seems to be something that families don't want to give up on.

CHAD: [laughs]

VICTORIA: So I think our ultimate goal is that we'll be able to offer a summer program for those families that want to either go year-round or maybe they want to do the summer program and not do a winter program. And we do have kids already that are in the southern hemisphere, where that is desirable. But so far, we haven't tackled a summer program just because we're already tackling a lot. But we surveyed families, and they actually really wanted to mostly stick with the idea of having a summer, a more traditional summer break.

CHAD: But does that mean that you can't add students outside of that cycle, so you really truly have cohorts? Or are you adding people along the way?

VICTORIA: We're adding people along the way. We operate in five weeks cycles, actually. And each cycle has an overarching theme. And that's part of our goal of making things feel really-real world. And also, because kids have a lot of choice, we do want there to be some unifying factor to what they're doing.

And so examples of themes that we've done are cities of the future, hidden histories, which looked at U.S. history but really from the perspective of lessons we can learn, inventor studio where kids learned all about design thinking through being real inventors. We have a super cool theme right now called uncharted territories, which has got some really strong STEM learning but through the lens of space exploration and deep-sea exploration. And kids are working on an interdisciplinary project during that time. We have live workshops that are aligned around the theme.

And then they're also working on what we call missions. So math missions and writing missions, which again, are really honoring that idea of giving kids choice and allowing them to go at their own pace but just to make sure they're really getting the foundations they need in math and writing. But really, a kid could join at the beginning of any cycle.

CHAD: Okay, that's great. Is that a happy accident of the model, or was it intentional in terms of from a product perspective making sure that you could continue to add people and weren't locked in to a small set of initial users?

VICTORIA: No, that was intentional, although our original model that we launched with did not have five weeks cycles. It actually didn't have themes either. It was more trimester-based. We call them sessions, not trimesters. And so that was more of a model where we could have kids come in every trimester. And that's evolved to do these five-week cycles and themes.

And from the feedback we got in that first trimester, we evolved the model. And so, I guess we've now evolved in a way we could have even more frequent intakes. But yeah, I think it was very...for us not coming from the education world, the idea that you could only bring customers on board once a year that felt very foreign. So we've always had the idea of let's make sure we can onboard kids throughout the year.

CHAD: So what did the first families, I guess, the early adopters, what did they look like?

VICTORIA: They were a real mix, so some long-time public school families and private school families, some long-time homeschool families. It was a real mix. I think it was a mix. Now, the Prisma families, I would say, are very much bought into precisely what our model and our vision is. But that first set of pilot families, I think some of them, if you ask them honestly, would say, "School was a disaster because of COVID. We're willing to give anything a shot. We'll give this a shot." And I think what's been really surprising to some of those families is, wow, we actually really only thought we would do this for a year, and now we're continuing because it worked.

But it was a mix of families I'd say who had always really believed in a more alternative innovative approach to education but, for one reason or another, hadn't had the ability to test it perhaps because there were no schools like that in their neighborhood or because they just hadn't perhaps had the courage to try it out. So there was that set of families. There were families that had kids that would be probably said to be gifted and were just not being challenged in school and were a bit bored and not really living up to their potential that I think were attracted to give Prisma a shot.

There were homeschool families who really loved the idea of home-based learning but were looking for more community, a bit more support by having some structure and some coaches. And in some families where kids had not thrived in school because they had special learning needs. We even have kids at Prisma that have physical disabilities where physically showing up in school each day is really tough. And online learning just makes their life so much easier. So I guess the ultimate theme here is it was families for whom the more traditional bricks and mortar approach was maybe okay, but it wasn't wildly successful for their kids.

CHAD: You focus on particular grade levels or age range, right?

VICTORIA: Yes, four through eight right now, yeah.

CHAD: And you said, "Right now." [laughs] So why did you choose that age to focus on, and do you plan on expanding?

VICTORIA: Yes, we do plan on expanding. I think the first expansion will be to go up into high school grades. The reason we focused on fourth through eighth was twofold. One was that we just think parents are more open to experimenting with a new model at the elementary-middle school level than they are at the high school level, so there was that. Just because once you get to high school, parents and kids alike start to get more anxious about things like college admissions and perhaps become more risk-averse. But the other really big reason came from all the conversations we had with teachers. I didn't mention that when we hired for our first coaching roles, we got 1,400 applicants applying. [chuckles]

CHAD: Wow.

VICTORIA: And so we narrowed it down. I did not talk to 1,400 people, but I talked to a lot of teachers. And actually, we first started those conversations saying we were going to focus on high school. And we shifted our thinking in part because so many of those teachers said that they felt like fourth, fifth, sixth grade is a real turning point for kids in terms of their enjoyment of school and their confidence in their own abilities and part of the reason for that, not the only reason, is that testing starts to ramp up at that stage in schooling. But we just really felt like if we could catch kids at that point, before they'd sort of lost their enjoyment for learning and before they had started to internalize ideas like I'm not good at school, or I'm not good at math, or whatever it may be, that we could have the greatest impact.

The other thing is there is quite an unlearning process that kids have to go through when they join Prisma because we give them a lot of autonomy, and independence, and ability to make choices and have control over their schedule. And we ask them to write self-reviews. And when it's time for a Parent Coach Learner Conference, the learner leads that conference. And the earlier you can get kids, I think the easier it is to get them to adapt to that approach than when you get them later in their schooling where it's been drummed into them that you paint within the lines. You do what you're told. You do this in order to get good grades. And so that was another piece that attracted us to that age range.

CHAD: How old are your kids?

VICTORIA: Good question. So they are seven, four, and two. So they're not quite old enough for Prisma yet, so we're doing our own version of Prisma right now until our oldest is old enough for Prisma. And the reason we didn't go below fourth grade, at least for now, is we do think there is a limit to how young you can go and be successful with a largely virtual model, and so that's why we haven't gone below fourth. And so, our seven-year-old is being homeschooled. But we've also put together a community of other homeschool kids that she learns with several times a week and gets that socialization piece, so that's the cohort piece that we offer through Prisma. But yeah, she's definitely...she's in training to be a Prisma kid.

CHAD: How do you balance with both you and your husband working on Prisma, homeschooling a seven-year-old, the other kids? How are you balancing all of that?

VICTORIA: And just parenthood in general because this is our first time starting a company while having kids.

CHAD: Yes.

VICTORIA: We had a pretty long gap in between our last company and this. So the honest answer is we have hired a teacher for the homeschooling piece, so that helps a lot. And she's super capable, and she's really the frontline person for managing the community that we've developed. So the harder piece is not that so much; it's managing parenthood with entrepreneurship. [chuckles] I would say it's a work in progress. And ask me some days, and I'll say, "That's going great." And ask me other days, I would say, "It's not going so great."

We are really, really lucky that we can hire good childcare, so that helps a lot. But even if you have great childcare, I want to be involved with my kids. I love my time with my kids. There's also just so many decisions and things you need to be involved in with kids that you truly don't want to and should not outsource, whether it's as simple as like on my to-do list right now, is that the two-year-old's birthday is coming up, and I'm not going to outsource buying birthday presents or organizing a party. So that's on my to-do list.

So I would say relative to when we had our previous company which was really successful, and stressful, and busy but that was the only thing we had to worry about. Trying to manage a company and kids it's a lot of context shifting. But for me, at least, I'm very, very rigid about my time. So I will organize my schedule so that I finish at least at the latest by 4:00 p.m. each day, and that is my time with the kids. And I'm with them until they're in bed, and then I'll jump back online. But there's almost nothing that will interfere with it. And that's just how I've prioritized, and it's just really important to me. So it's setting priorities, I guess.

CHAD: Yeah, when we were setting up for the show, you said that you were in the office. So you separate home and work, and school places, I guess.

VICTORIA: Kind of. The office is a little built-out area of our garage, [chuckles] so I walk from the front door three paces into the garage. But it is separated to the extent that the kids are not running in at any moment. They don't really come here. But it's really nice. And I think a lot of parents have discovered that during this whole COVID work from home experience and with kids home too, it's really nice. Because not every day, but some days I can go in and have lunch with the kids because they're all around. And some days, I can pop over to Elle's classroom and see what she's doing and be involved and do a bit of reading with her and that sort of thing.

So I personally really love the efficiency of working from home, wasting no time with commutes, and also just the ability to be really flexible with my time. Maybe I will take an hour out in the middle of the day to do something with the kids, and then I'll make it up later in the evening because that's fine. I don't have that much going on in the evening anyway once the kids are in bed. So I personally really like that flexibility.

CHAD: So, turning our attention back to the product, you said that you got started piecing together existing tools on the tech side. And so, what were the first things that you started to replace in that stack? And when did you start hiring a tech team to do that?

VICTORIA: Yeah. So Alain, my husband, his background is product management. So we had product expertise already. We spun up a team of engineers, I think already by October or late October of 2020. So shortly after, we had officially begun the school year. And fortunately, these were engineers we'd worked with before in previous companies.

And the first thing we started to tackle actually was the live learning experience, so basically a replacement for Zoom. And that was partly because we felt like there was nothing available that really designed a live learning experience through the eyes of fourth through eighth graders, through that sort of demographic. And also, because the other product needs that we have that we're now tackling is everything we need to just manage the whole curriculum like a learning management system.

But our whole model was still too much in flux for us to want to focus on that right away. We needed some clarity about what the model would look like. Whereas the idea that we would always have a live learning component where kids would be online, there'd be a coach, but it would be very collaborative and interactive was very clear. We knew that wouldn't shift, and so that was the first piece we tackled.

And we've really tried to tackle a few different areas there. One is to make coaches really efficient so that they're not trying to focus on creating this really engaging learning experience while also having 15 different tabs open and trying to play this YouTube video. So we've basically created what we call Prisma LIVE, where our curriculum team can create these semi-scripted because we certainly let coaches deviate, of course, but experiences with chapters.

And there's a lot of shifting of the way the room looks, and the way the kids are organized, and the visuals. Because a lot of the research we looked at is that fatigue, Zoom fatigue, actually comes from staring for a long time at the same scene of this person you're talking to or these people you're talking to. So to make it visually stimulating and appealing for kids and seamless for coaches so they don't need to worry about managing all these different aspects of the workshop. They're just clicking through and focusing on making sure kids are participating.

And participation was another thing we really focused on. We do a lot of breakout rooms because we want kids to be collaborating in small groups. So we wanted coaches to be able to instead of having to jump into breakout rooms and interrupt the flow and not know who needs help, the ability for them to stay in the main room and be able to listen in and get an oversight for how things are going in the various breakout rooms and jump into those rooms where it's clear that they're needed perhaps because there's not much going on in there. There's not much discussion, or maybe there's a lot of very animated discussion. So that was an area we focused on and then just making it more kid-friendly and more fun.

And every cycle at Prisma ends with Expo Day, where kids present the project they've been working on to the whole Prisma community, parents, and grandparents. And one of the real downsides of virtual in that experience is that these kids are presenting these amazing things, but there's limited ability for people to express how amazing they think it is. And so just visual ways of people being able to express their emotions and their reactions during live workshops is another thing. We've focused on fun avatars that would appeal to kids and that sort of thing. So that has been our first focus.

Now we're heads down on the learning management piece. Like, what are the building blocks we need to put in place in order to be able to keep the customer experience really high whilst making our coaches more and more effective and more and more scalable?
CHAD: So as you got started or when you were thinking about getting started, what were you most afraid of?

VICTORIA: Well, aside from the fact that we're trying to pull this off really quickly and being afraid that this would be a complete failure, aside from that, honestly --

CHAD: Just that small thing. [chuckles]

VICTORIA: Yeah. I think the thing that we were most nervous about, and I think it's the thing we probably get the biggest question about, and yet it has proven to be the thing we really didn't need to worry about, is socialization. And to what extent can kids build friendships virtually? To what extent can they build community virtually? To what extent can they meaningfully collaborate and learn together virtually? And I think we went in hoping that all of that was fully achievable but not being quite sure about it.

And honestly, the signs were so quick that that wasn't going to be an issue for us. Already in orientation...we organized this really fun orientation mostly oriented around making sure kids were excited and got to know each other. And so quickly, we started hearing from parents, like, "Oh, my kid can't stop talking about Prisma. They're jumping out of bed every morning. They've never done that before. They've never jumped out of bed to go to school. And my kid has already made their first friend."

And what I think we've discovered is absolutely kids can make friends virtually, and probably kids would have never questioned that actually. That probably felt natural to them. I think it's maybe adults that might question that. Now, does that mean that kids shouldn't have in-person friends? Of course, they should. And we would strongly encourage Prisma families to make sure their kids are enrolled in extracurriculars in their community and that sort of thing. We've surveyed the kids. Every single Prisma learner has said that they've made strong friendships at Prisma. For some of them, it's many friendships. For some of them, it's a smaller number of friendships.

And the other thing that's just going really well, I think, better than in-person school or bricks and mortar school is the community we've created. It's a really, really supportive community of kids. There hasn't been this sorting that I think happens in schools, particularly at the middle school and high school level of like, you're part of that clique, and you're part of that clique. And we're a little cooler than you are. Maybe just the nature of virtual makes it harder to sort kids like that. And there's not the natural time of in the cafeteria where you have to decide where you're going to sit and that kind of awkwardness.

Plus, we did a lot of legwork upfront of working with the kids to say: What kind of community do we want to build here? What are the values of our cohort? What are the expectations of our cohort? And I think that really helped to create a community that's just really kind and supportive, pretty uniquely kind and supportive, I think.

CHAD: Cool. That's great. And now that you're up and running and continuing to grow, looking ahead, what are you most worried about now as your next challenge?

VICTORIA: I think the biggest, hardest thing for us to figure out is how to keep the level of quality, great results. I haven't even mentioned it yet, but we are making sure that kids are progressing both academically in terms of these holistic skills. And on the academic front, we've seen really amazing growth. So the kids did a nationally recognized assessment at the end of last year and at the beginning when they joined. And they grew in math at 153% of expected growth and 174% of expected growth in reading.

So we've set a really high bar for ourselves. Kids are loving Prisma; 100% of kids said they're happier at Prisma than at their previous school. We have a really great Net Promoter Score, which means parents are really willing to recommend Prisma. We're seeing great growth in the kids. So how do we keep that super high bar whilst opening Prisma up to more and more and more kids? Because part of the attraction for us to offer a virtual model was the desire to be able to reach large numbers of kids if we came up with a model that really worked.

And I think through all of our research, one of the things we noticed is there are amazingly innovative schools out there. There are a lot of really innovative brick-and-mortar schools, actually, but they really haven't scaled. They tend to be...a few have scaled a bit, but they're still very limited in the number of kids that they can reach. And part of our thesis was that if you could do this online, just online is inherently more scalable. You're not dealing with buildings and everything that goes along with that.

But nevertheless, we still are a model where coaches are really important. So our ability to continue to find, train, and develop coaches that are really awesome I think will be a challenge, something we're going to have to get really, really good at. And then just making sure that we can strike the right balance because we also want to be a model that's as affordable as possible and that requires us to make sure that our costs are reasonable. So striking that balance and trying to use technology to be as efficient as possible, I think that is the next set of challenges that we need to deal with.

CHAD: Are you comfortable sharing how many students you have now?

VICTORIA: Yeah, I'm comfortable with that because the number we have was very much set by our own desire to grow carefully. So we have almost 90 kids. And we have a very long waitlist, basically.

CHAD: Well, that's bigger than my high school graduating class. [laughs]

VICTORIA: Oh, there you go. [laughs] It's funny because people react differently to that. Some people are like, "Wow, that's pretty big." It's not nearly as big as we intend to get. But we decided to cap. We wanted to be disciplined. We had way more demand than that. But further to what I said of quality first and delighting customers first, we said, "No, we'll cut it off at that point." And families have gone on to a waitlist, which is growing by the day. And then we'll be able to let more families in throughout the year.

We're small, but we're a lot bigger than we were in our first pilot year. And I think what's been really exciting is we're still somewhat early into the school year. But that level of delight, and excitement, and families just writing to us and saying, "I've never seen my kids so excited." And that's happening again. So it's really exciting to see that we're getting that again even though we have actually grown quite a bit relative to where we were.

CHAD: Well, congratulations on everything that you've achieved so far and in tackling these upcoming challenges.

VICTORIA: Thank you.

CHAD: If people want to find out more about Prisma and join or if they're interested in becoming a great coach, where can they do that?

VICTORIA: So the best place to go is our website which is, so not, We have a super detailed website, which I think is really informative. So that's a great place to start. You can also sign up for an info session there if you want to talk to someone live about Prisma. And then yes, we have job postings on there as well. And we're always super excited to hear from talented candidates. So that's the best place to go.

CHAD: And if people want to follow along with you personally or get in touch, where are the best places for them to do that?

VICTORIA: So we do have Prisma social media accounts, so Twitter is @joinprisma. And I'm not the most active person on social media. My husband is much more active, so they may want to follow him. He's Alain Chuard. I presume his Twitter handle is @AlainChuard, C-H-U-A-R-D. [laughs] And you can reach me if you email, but you address it to Victoria. It will reach me, and I will reply.

CHAD: Awesome. And people can find all these links and everything in the show notes, which are at You can also subscribe to the show there as well. And if you have questions or comments for us, email us at And you can find me on Twitter @cpytel. This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Everybody, thanks for listening and see you next time. Thanks, Victoria.

VICTORIA: Thank you. Thanks so much.

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