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Remind, a Start-Up That Links Teachers and Parents, Raises $40 Million

Ohanian Comment:
"This is just a simple, safe, secure service that works," John Doerr said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "They are going to build a great big, global, durable enterprise." Read far enough down in this New York Times story and you will discover that John Doerr is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. Bloomberg News identifies him as a venture capitalist.

John Doerr was co-founder of New Schools Venture Fund. Here are a few other enterprises with which he has been involved:

1997: In a speech pushing national standards, President Bill Clinton, John Doerr made the point that the 240 companies endorsing Clinton's national standards movement have created 130,000 jobs in the last 4 years and have thousands of job openings now waiting to be filled.

2001: Headline: Chicago Public Schools & New Leaders for New Schools Announce Landmark Partnership to Recruit and Train New Principals. One year after its founding, New Leaders for New Schools, with Eli Broad money, is helping improve Chicago public schools "by attracting and preparing the next generation of outstanding new school principals."

2003: Lou Gerstner of IBM started The Teaching Commission, with John Doerr as a member. A main suggestion from this group was to raise teacher salaries and tie these salaries to performance (how much their students learn).

2004: Headline: Chicago Public Schools & New Leaders for New Schools Announce Landmark Partnership to Recruit and Train New Principals. One year after its founding, New Leaders for New Schools, with Eli Broad money, is helping improve Chicago public schools "by attracting and preparing the next generation of outstanding new school principals."

2007: In Eli's Experiment, the East Bay Express offered Doerr connections in a nutshell:
NewSchools, a major supporter of charter schools, shares Broad's vision of using business strategies to solve problems in public education. Doerr, who ranks 271 on the Forbes list, is a good friend of Eli Broad. And Broad and Hastings rank among NewSchools' biggest donors.

2008: In writing about EdVoice, San Diego Reader invites us to follow the money.EdVoice, a controversial Sacramento lobbying and political action group closely aligned with Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad and other wealthy advocates of public school privatization and charter schools. . . . Doerr, along with Broad, a Walton granddaughter, Donald Fisher, and so on, put big money in a political campaign for the 78th Assembly District.

2009: President Obama appointed Doerr to the USA Economic Recovery Advisory Board --to provide the President and his administration with advice and counsel in fixing America's economic downturn.

2013: On leaving the US Department of Education, Joanne Weiss, manager of Race to the Top, expressed admiration for several people, including John Doerr--and Joanne Weiss.

And so on and so on. Just to give a glimpse of the information missing when a reporter describes John Doerr simply as "a well-known partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers."

Remind, the start-up under discussion, doesn't charge for the current service. Now do you think for a moment that the hedge funders--John Doerr and his friends-- have plunked down $40 million just to provide something teachers, parents, and students might find useful?

People at Remind are trying to figure out what added gimmicks they might charge for.

By Michael J. de la Merced

The simple act of connecting teachers with students and parents may not seem like a revolutionary business. But Remind, a start-up built around using smartphones to link the three groups, has gotten a big financial vote of confidence from prominent investors.

The company said on Tuesday that it had raised $40 million from existing investors, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and joined by the Social+Capital Partnership and First Round Capital. The new round raises Remind's total fund-raising to $59 million.

It is the latest investment in education technology. The sector does not necessarily carry the appeal of social networking, but it has attracted more and more investors eager to claim a stake in the changing face of schooling. So-called ed tech companies drew $1.25 billion in investments last year, according to the research firm CB Insights, the second consecutive year that the industry received over $1 billion in funding.

"For a long time, I think the vertical was neglected," Brett Kopf, Remind's chief executive and co-founder, said in an interview. âNow, a lot of money has been put in.â

Though not a household name, Remind has seen enormous adoption by its intended audience: More than 40 percent of teachers in states like Texas and Georgia now use its app, Mr. Kopf said.

About a million teachers use the software to connect with more than 17 million students. And the app has ranked in the top five most popular programs on the app stores of Apple and Google.

The underlying premise is simple. Using the free app, teachers can send reminders, homework assignments, pictures and more to students and parents without using easy-to-lose paper forms. Parents can also send messages to their children and teachers. The company hopes to add additional services for which it will charge fees.

For Mr. Kopf, who was inspired, in part, by the difficulties he faced growing up with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, Remind is meant to more tightly link teachers and parents. Numerous studies, he says, have linked close collaboration between the two, as well as with students, to more effective learning.

And since so many Americans now have smartphones, using a mobile app seemed only natural.

"We make it incredibly easy to connect," he said.

For parents, being able to communicate quickly and easily with teachers helps bolster engagement, Mr. Kopf said. One teacher in New Orleans said the app helped double attendance at parent-teacher conferences, as parents learned more about what their children were learning.

John Doerr, a well-known partner at Kleiner Perkins and a Remind director, said in an interview that the start-up appeared to have cracked the code of introducing technology into classrooms in a simple but effective way.

"Remind is the first entry Iâve seen on how to get very rapid adoption of a very simple system that makes teachers more effective in getting better outcomes," he said.

Among the qualities that first drew Kleiner Perkins to Remind, according to Mr. Doerr, was the company's focus on education and metrics. When he first visited the start-up, he found a list of statistics -- like the number of enrolled teachers and their engagement numbers -- posted above the wash basin in one of the restrooms.

With the new money, Remind will have more capital to expand in a number of areas, according to Mr. Kopf. It will make a big push outside the United States and into Western Europe, while also bolstering its software development team and its community outreach and support staffs.

— Michael J. de la Merced
New York Times with Ohanian note





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