Although Connected Information Systems, LLC originated in the Fall of ’07, the venture is still alive and well in startup mode come Winter of 2010. The company’s core SAAS technology powers collaborative learning communities in K-12 schools and makes Web 2.0 technologies accessible in the school setting. Founded by local tech entrepreneur Aaron Kardell and former Pearson Plc colleauge Lou Delzompo, the service has been in “pilot beta” to this point, deployed amongst 5 school districts within California and Iowa.
The technology is designed to interface with pre-existing student information systems – that is, it can automatically create groups and communities from the information the school is already tracking, in terms of scheduling and student data. It provides parents with up to date information on their children/students grades and attendance while the students are provided a number of tools for communication and collaboration including: text message notification alerts when assignments are posted, comprehensive calendar that combines activities from all classes and extracurricular activities, tools for collaborating in a class or group (blogs, wikis, forums, photo sharing, etc.), one-to-one messaging, and the ability to inquire about upcoming homework assignments via a text message interface (for example, by texting an “HW” command). All of this is done in a way that ensures student privacy and safety within the guidelines of the COPPA and FERPA laws.
Revenue is generated through a mix of models (projected sales for 2010 are $300,000), primarily driven on a cost per student basis paid by school districts, with the opportunity for premium services revenue from parents and extracurricular groups. They are also pursuing OEM partnership channels with other alternative solutions that exist in this space. In terms of market size, there are 50,000,000 K-12 students in US. 10% of that share at $4 per student per year equals $20M in annual revenue.
Back in 2001, Aaron founded Altona Ed, another K-12 related startup focused on student information systems. Although Pearson acquired this company, he stayed on board until 2007, starting Connected Info shortly thereafter. Currently, he also owns and operates a small consulting and product business – Performant Design – that focuses on mobile and social apps. Additionally, he wrote a Facebook app – World Conquest – that was acquired by SGN, one of the premier VC-funded social gaming networks. More recently, he developed iGarageSale for the iPhone, which was featured by Apple in the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes and is a 2009 Best App Ever award nominee in two categories. Performant Design also recently launched MobileRealtyApps.com – a service for realtors to have iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry apps to represent them.
Connected Info Co Founder and CEO Lou Delzompo has 28 years of experience developing software products for companies such as Apple, Sun, Data General, NetSchools (a startup that sought to bring 1-to-1 laptops into schools), and Pearson.
Based on his experiences in creating software products specifically for the educational environment, we inquired as to the “web 2.0” adoption amongst his target market. Aaron had this to say: “Education has this unfortunate history of lagging in technology trends by about 5 years. While in some ways it seems we are on the tail-end of “social” adoption in tech, in many ways it’s just beginning in education. The initial reaction was to block sites such as MySpace and Facebook. The reality now, though, is that more and more schools are realizing that they need to better engage their parents and students, and are trying to find effective ways to use social tools to do so, while not exposing themselves to great legal risk. We think we are in a prime position to fill this need.”