Kickboard is a web-based school analytics platform that allows educators to gather insights based on student performance data, and to date they have raised $2.8 million in funding. The startup is based in New Orleans, a city with a budding edtech scene known as the Silicon Bayou. Technapex spoke with Kickboard founder and CEO Jennifer Medberry, a computer scientist turned high school math teacher turned entrepreneur who built Kickboard to create the tools for teachers that she would have utilized herself while in the classroom.
Jennifer commented on the founding story of Kickboard, the role of edtech tools in the classroom, and what it’s like to work in NOLA’s brand new edtech scene. Check out our interview with her below!
Technapex: Can you share the founding story of Kickboard? What compelled you to tackle this challenge in particular?
Jennifer: When I was a math teacher, my colleagues and I were constantly collecting valuable student data, and while we knew it had tremendous potential to help inform teaching and increase student success, it was a struggle to make it actionable. We tried our best to create a makeshift solution with Google Docs and Excel spreadsheets, but it wasn’t efficient or really effective. Since I came to teaching with a degree in computer science, I saw an opportunity to use my background as a technologist to overcome this challenge. With Kickboard, educators and school leaders are now able to gain greater visibility into student performance in and across classrooms and more easily access the information they need to make meaningful adjustments to instruction and interventions.
Technapex: As a former math teacher yourself, do you think it is important for edtech tools to come from the teaching community?
Jennifer: While there are lots of great tools to come from the classroom like Kickboard, and it is critically important to identify and support teachers who want to develop edtech tools, innovative and impactful ideas can be sparked by anyone who is passionate about education. If we’re going to transform teaching and learning, we need to encourage ideas from all avenues.
Technapex: New Orleans offers a unique educational environment, especially with more children in charter schools after Hurricane Katrina. What unique challenges and opportunities does this present for schools in NOLA? And what about for edtech companies looking to work with schools in New Orleans?
Jennifer: Since the recovery, we’ve seen schools in New Orleans seek new and innovative ways to improve student outcomes, including experimenting with emerging technologies and practices that address critical needs. This offers edtech companies an incredible opportunity to partner directly with teachers and school leaders to tackle their specific challenges. Schools get tools that are built to specifically address their pain points, and edtech start-ups get to work hand-in-hand with schools as they refine their solutions. This approach leads to better outcomes for students in New Orleans and in schools everywhere that are experiencing similar obstacles. That collaborative environment combined with a supportive business community makes New Orleans the perfect place for teachers, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in improving public education.
Technapex: What is like running a business in NOLA?
Jennifer: New Orleans is a terrific city to start and run a business. The city is making a conscious effort to catalyze entrepreneurship, and not just in edtech but in other industries as well. Young businesses like ours are viewed as part of a larger, critical growth mechanism for the city, rather than just one isolated piece of the puzzle. Because it is such
a supportive place, talented people are drawn here, many with a similar mission to effect change and make New Orleans – and beyond – a better place.
Technapex: New Orleans has a growing entrepreneurial startup scene. What is it like being a part of that community?
Jennifer: New Orleans has become home to a vibrant start-up ecosystem with incubators and accelerators and other organizations dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed. However, what’s probably most impressive is the fact that it isn’t a cut-throat, everyone-for-themselves atmosphere, but instead one that really embraces and supports new ventures as part of a collective effort. It’s very rewarding to be a part of a community where you can meet friends and mentors as well as help nurture the next wave of entrepreneurs. For anyone looking to launch or grow a company – edtech or otherwise, New Orleans should be at the top their short list. It is an unmatched environment for entrepreneurs.