Schoolrunner scores $1.5M from CIF, aims to grow U.S. presence

March 24, 2015

[ibimage==32984==Original==none==self==ibimage_align-center]Since starting with one school and 700 students in New Orleans in 2012, Schoolrunner, a Denver-based tech startup that helps K-12 teachers better manage their student information workflow, has grown to 72 schools across the country in markets including San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Chicago, Newark and Memphis, impacting in total 50,000 students.

And three years into the business, CEO and Founder Charlie Coglianese can now hire the team’s first sales representative.

On Monday the Colorado Impact Fund (CIF), which partner Ryan Kirkpatrick said focuses on high-growth startups that have a positive community impact, announced it invested $1.5 million into Schoolrunner. Kirkpatrick confirmed that the CIF received an undisclosed amount of equity for the investment.

For Schoolrunner, which has grown year by year without dedicated sales reps, the investment will help the company better control its growth, according to Coglianese.

“The nice thing about schools is they all want each other to succeed and so they talk to each other about the tools that they use,” Coglianese said. “By doing that, we’ve been able to spread by word of mouth, but at a certain point, you want to take a little bit more control of the situation and try to grow by your own scheme and your own strategy.”

That strategy, Coglianese said, includes hiring sales representatives, and he added that he recently hired a product manager, as well as support and quality assurance team members. To date, Schoolrunner has consisted of an engineering team and school happiness team. The former develops the products and the latter ensures the products are working to the teachers’ satisfaction.

And it seems like the teachers are happy. Coglianese said the Schoolrunner platform centralizes and improves processes that teachers already do, such as taking attendance or recording grades. On top of that, it provides other tools and analysis, allowing, for example, teachers to easily track what subject matter his or her students struggle with and what concepts they quickly grasp.

The ultimate goal is to help teachers work more efficiently and ultimately improve student outcomes, be them academic, social or emotional. According to Coglianese, 15 percent of students at the New Orleans pilot school went from non-proficient to proficient on average across all state tests after the teachers started using Schoolrunner.

Coglianese said he heard anecdotally from many teachers at the school that the positive shift in student testing came as a result of teachers being able to notice obvious gaps — thanks to Schoolrunner.

“If I tell a teacher that his or her kids haven’t mastered how to do complex fractions, [teachers] have 100 different ways that they can try to explain that concept and help the kids understand why it’s interesting and why they should learn it,” Coglianese said. “The missing piece in the schools — and where I think technology can really be helpful — is letting the teacher know this is the specific concept that your kids are struggling with, so that they can go fill those gaps.”

100,000 students by year's end 

Coglianese, who emphasized Schoolrunner works to empower teachers, not replace them, said the funding will allow the company to get to the next level.

Specifically, Coglianese hopes Schoolrunner impacts 100,000 students by year’s end, and he expects the team to grow to 20 within six months. Coglianese has hired four employees since receiving the funding, growing the team from 8 to 12 persons.

Coglianese said the team hasn’t looked to launch in markets outside the U.S., though he added Schoolrunner has received interest from England and India. The variation of the educational landscape from state to state is enough for Schoolrunner to deal with right now, before adding international complications to the mix. For now, Coglianese wants to focus on nurturing existing relationships with schools and continue to carefully grow Schoolrunner's U.S. presence.

Kirkpatrick said Schoolrunner aligns with the CIF’s investment strategy, both from a business and community-enhancement perspective.

“[Coglianese] really hasn’t spent much money on sales and marketing,” Kirkpatrick said. “What’s exciting for us is to invest in a platform that’s got such a great foundation, such great leadership, and really putting our foot down on the accelerator to really get this thing out to a lot more schools.”

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