Swing Education Raises $15 Million to Connect More Schools With...


Swing Education Raises $15 Million to Connect More Schools With Substitute Teachers

By Sydney Johnson     Jul 11, 2018

Swing Education Raises $15 Million to Connect More Schools With Substitute Teachers
Swing Education CEO Mike Teng

Teacher shortages in the U.S. have been well-documented. But sometimes, what’s harder than finding full-time teachers is finding substitutes who can fill in for them.

That’s an issue that Joan O’ Neill, a human resources manager at Menlo Park City School District in California, knows all too well. Recently, her team has been turning to Swing Education, a marketplace of sorts for substitute teachers, to fill those open roles.

Since starting in 2015, Swing has grown from filling around five substitute teacher requests per week to today more than 1,800. And now the company is expecting another wave of growth with the help of a $15 million Series B fundraise led by Owl Ventures and GV (formerly known as Google Ventures). The startup’s existing investors Social Capital, Kapor Capital, Moment Ventures, Ulu Ventures, Edovate Capital and Redhouse Education also participated in the round, which brings Swing Education’s total amount raised to nearly $22.8 million.

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Swing’s platform eases the on-boarding process for substitute teachers by consolidating forms such as background checks and health forms, and reimburses subs for costs associated with that paperwork. The substitutes then create profiles and can sign up for teaching opportunities directly through Swing’s website. Schools and districts meanwhile enter their substitute teacher request into Swing and receive a notification when a potential sub is available.

Nearly all schools already have a system in place for finding and contacting subs, and Swing isn’t necessarily out to replace that. Instead, Swing describes itself as a “backup plan to help tackle the hard absences and prevent surprises.”

Menlo Park City was one of the earliest districts to partner with Swing in 2016. According to O’Neill, the district mainly turned to the platform in last-minute situations such as an unexpected absence due to a sick day. But “it was tough the first year,” she says, because Swing didn’t yet “have a huge pool for us to tap into.”

As the company began recruiting more subs to its system, the district began turning to the website more regularly. Today O’Neill estimates that about 30-40 percent of substitute teacher requests in Menlo Park City School District are filled through Swing. The remaining requests are typically filled by substitutes who regularly work with the school or go through the district directly.

One barrier to finding subs is getting potential teachers trained and into a school’s substitute teaching pipeline. Swing aims to simplify those processes by helping to streamline the work involved in filling out forms and other state-specific documents required to be a substitute. “They do a lot of the hand-holding to get subs ready to be subs and go through all the paperwork with them,” says O'Neill.

Swing charges schools around 25 percent on top of what the school would pay the sub, and fee goes towards paying hired substitutes, reimbursing subs for background checks and other screening costs, and revenue for Swing. (Districts don’t pay anything for spots that go unfilled through Swing.)

Last year, Menlo Park City School District spent around $50,000 to get substitute teachers from Swing's platform, O'Neill says. That’s not far off from what the school would pay without using Swing, she adds, since the district otherwise has to cover its own costs of recruiting substitutes, screening candidates and paying subs.

Swing also promises a more timely payment process for substitute teachers. “Some districts pay every other week or once a month, and that can mean up to as much as 40 days between the day you sub and when it hits your bank account,” says CEO Mike Teng. “It can be a lot to keep track of if you work in multiple districts with different pay periods and pay amounts”

Teng, who previously was a director of instructional technology at Rocketship Schools, started the company with Oz Feng and Asha Visweswaran after seeing how hard it could be to find subs, especially in places where the cost of living has pushed many teachers away.

Working in a school’s technology department also gave him unique insight about the challenges around selling to schools and districts. “I was [at Rocketship] for five years and saw a lot of education technology companies pitching ‘nice to have’ but ‘not need to have’ things,” says Teng. But “every person who works in a school or district building seems to recognize [filling substitutes] is a challenge.”

Swing currently works with more than 600 schools in the country—most of which are in California—and and also works with schools in Washington D.C. and New Jersey. Despite its rapid growth, Swing is not profitable yet. The company plans to use the latest raise to continue partnering with more schools and districts around the country, particularly in new areas such as Texas or other parts of the Southwest.

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