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When Y Combinator ed tech startup Clever launched in June, the startup accelerator’s co-founder Paul Graham challenged the group to reach 40 schools by Demo Day. But when the company takes the stage to present its service with the rest of the startups graduating today, it won’t be announcing that it’s reached 40, or 400 schools, but 1,000.
The startup, which has been called a ‘Twilio for education,’ could play a key role in ushering innovation into the classroom by making it easier for education-focused developers to access student data stored in legacy Student Information Systems (SISes).
As I wrote last week in a story about LearnSprout, another quickly growing San Francisco startup tackling the same issue, data integration is a major headache for schools and developers. Accessing student data — from attendance records to grades to addresses — can currently be a weeks-long, labor-intensive, error-prone process that discourages schools from working with ed tech companies.
“Moving and managing data is one of the biggest things holding education back today,” said co-founder Tyler Bosmeny. The company’s traction, he said, shows how badly developers and educators need tools that integrate and normalize student data.
Some of the schools integrated with Clever include large charter school networks like KIPP, ASPIRE, and Green Dot, but the company said 50 percent of its schools are in traditional districts. Clever charges over 30 software companies, such as Mastery Connect, TenMarks, Sokikom, for access to its API so that those software companies can process student data and charge school districts for their educational services.
The six-person company also said that it has added Matt Pasternack, a former co-founder of data and analytics ed tech startup Junyo. At Clever, he’ll lead business development and work with the company’s developer partners, Bosmeny said.
The company, which was founded by Bosmeny and two Harvard classmates, Dan Carroll and Rafael Garcia, was inspired by Carroll’s experience in education. After completing two years with Teach for America, Carroll managed technology and innovation for a Denver charter school and “lived this problem” with data, Bosmeny said.
Clever’s growth not only speaks to the current issues facing schools and developers, it indicates the founders’ desire to show the potential of education startups. While K-12 education has, more recently, attracted investment, investors have historically eschewed the field. To their knowledge, Clever’s founders said they think they’re the first K-12 startup accepted to Y Combinator.
“We really want to show that education can be a valuable business if you approach it the right way,” said Bosmeny. “We hope we can take away the barrier and prove that education is a real market and there’s a lot of room for innovation in this space.”