Editor’s note: March is celebrated as Women’s History Month in the US. At Google, we’re proud to celebrate women from all backgrounds and are committed to increasing the number of women in the technology industry. Over the next few weeks, we will showcase women-led startups and how they use Google Cloud to grow their businesses.Today’s feature highlights E-learning platform, Schoolio, and its co-founder, Lindsey Casselman.
I like to say that my favorite thing about Schoolio is that it all started with an act of kindness- and a cold DM.
I began my career as a teacher, with the eager hope of most new teachers that I could make a difference for kids. A few years later, with two kids of my own in school, I felt that I couldn’t change the system from within, and saw it as antiquated, and at best leaving kids ill-prepared for the real world and the future of work. I left teaching, and in 2015 I began homeschooling my children, and never looked back. As a homeschooler, I immediately discovered that once you leave the system, you’re on your own. There is very little homeschool content out there, and even less of it is secular, inclusive, and diversity driven. I also learned that many homeschooled children are kids with unique needs, as they are the most poorly served in a traditional classroom.
I used my knowledge of education and experience with children with unique needs to create home learning content for my own kids, and I became a leader in the community, mentoring new homeschoolers through a Facebook support group I started, where I would often share tips and some of my homemade teaching materials.
Everything changed in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. With millions of children suddenly learning at home, the number of people in my Facebook group exploded, and many were asking me to share more of my homemade content with them, as they became starkly aware of the lack of appropriate materials on the market. It was great to provide support, but I knew I could do much more than just share screenshots of my handwritten lesson plans. Luckily the group also contained my co-founder, Sathish Bala, who reached out to me in what’s now a framed-in-the-office cold DM, asking if I was interested in collaborating. Within a few weeks, in August 2020, we launched our first set of E-books for home education, and Schoolio was born.
Sathish and I share a common approach to education. Schoolio is founded on our belief that schools must be reimagined for the modern world. We believe that education should prepare children for their real futures, and that interest-based learning is what truly keeps students engaged and empowered. This is how they will grow to love learning, realize their own potential, and be set up for lifelong success.
After a successful seed fundraise in 2021, we have been able to completely digitize our content library into video format, and now offer the options of pen-to-paper book learning from the e-book store, or easy online access through our learning platform to meet the needs of families across the globe. Our curriculum now includes K8 core subjects (math, language, science, and social studies) for Canada and the U.S, plus a library of interest-based topics, including climate science, a robust Financial Literacy program, and a complete SEL (Social-emotional learning) library, my personal passion-project, that helps kids develop social skills, emotional regulation strategies, and character-building tools- needed now more than ever in our post-Covid world.
At the end of 2022 we also launched an immersive learning environment that takes children into a safe, curated 3D digital world. There’s really no limit to the educational experiences potentially available in this metaverse environment, from going on a virtual field trip to meeting teachers and experts from all over the world.
In addition, we are dedicated to using the latest innovations in technology to go beyond academic assessments and help children discover their passions and talents, learning styles and habits, strengths, and emotional well-being, as part of a whole-child approach to education. We believe there’s so much more to success than math scores!
Lindsey Casselman, Co-Founder of Schoolio
Acceleration for education
I’m still amazed that we’ve achieved so much in two busy years. A lot of that is thanks to the friends and business partners that we’ve met along the way, and the Google Cloud team definitely belongs in both categories.
I’ve always admired Google Cloud for its innovative technology and as a force for good especially with non-profits, social enterprises, and education. We participated in the Google Cloud Accelerator Canada program, a 10-week virtual course that we joined in 2022. Along with cloud mentorship and technical project support, we also gained valuable insights into product design, customer acquisition, and leadership development.
Our specific program was an accelerator for startups, which is a great description of the experience-we felt literally accelerated by the many helpful and interesting people who gave us a strong push in the right direction and helped us maintain momentum after the program.
We were also eligible for $100,000 of Google Cloud credits through the Google for Startups Cloud Program, which gave us a financial boost. The Google Cloud team also introduced us to its objectives and key results (OKR) process which helped us articulate our goals and measure progress, and which we continue to use in-house today.
From a technology point of view, we have deployed App Engine as our cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications. We’re planning to deploy BigQuery as our data warehouse and BigQuery ML which simplifies the creation of machine learning models. We’re also looking forward to the integration of more artificial intelligence features that will further streamline and accelerate our holistic education goals.
Breaking out of comfort zones
During the Google Cloud Accelerator Canada program, I was inspired by the other women tech founders that I met. I’ve been to events where I’m the only woman in the room, or where stereotypes about women in tech are present, so when you meet people with a similar experience it helps you see that you’re not alone and are actually part of a team of powerful innovators pushing boundaries for others. The Google team even connected me with members of the Google for Startups Accelerator: Women Founders cohort even though I wasn’t officially a member.
My advice to other women founders is to stay inspired to do what got you started in the first place, and don’t ever let the business or tech world make you feel like you don’t belong or like you need to change who you are in order to deserve to be there. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I was a teacher and then a stay-at-home mom, which goes to show that you don’t need years of business experience to be a pioneer. You can join the game whenever you want, as long as you have the passion and a willingness to continually learn new things. If you have initiative and you’re a self-learner, you are unstoppable.
The best of the journey is when you can look back at how you overcame your challenges and all that you’ve achieved. Projects that seemed insurmountable at the start eventually get smaller, and then completed, and before you know it you’re looking for the next mountain to climb.
We’re looking forward to working with the Google Cloud team again in the future. When people ask me why we choose Google over others, I tell them that we get the best of both worlds: groundbreaking tech that opens the door to new education possibilities, and a fail-safe suite of applications that never let you down. It might sound obvious but, reliability plus innovation really are the dream ingredients for a startup.
The collaboration and insights we’ve gained from everyone we’ve met along the way, not only from the Google Cloud team, but the amazing parents, educators, and kids who make up our community have truly made the journey so incredible. I’d love to thank them all for the support and for helping us transform education for children all over the world.
If you want to learn more about how Google Cloud can help your startup, visit our page here to get more information about our program, and sign up for our communications to get a look at our community activities, digital events, special offers, and more.
By: Lindsey Casselman (Co-Founder, Schoolio)
Originally published at Google Cloud Blog