NYU’s Summer LaunchPad is a ten-week accelerator program that gives ten promising NYU entrepreneurs the skills, resources and connections to turn their startups into commercially viable ventures. Here, Miriam Altman and Alexandra Meis, Co-Founders of Kinvolved, discuss the program and their startup, which simplifies the way teachers take attendance and instantly involves parents, to help decrease the high school drop-out rate.
Tell us about the decision to apply for NYU LaunchPad.
Kinvolved decided to apply to LaunchPad for a few reasons. First, we saw the LaunchPad as a great opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs, both early stage in our program, and a bit later stage who are already working out of the Varick Street Incubator. Second, the program offers excellent mentorship opportunities from very established entrepreneurs and investors in the community. We also wanted to be part of an ed-tech organization with a strong social mission and deep involvement in the education community in NYC, and have the opportunity to work from the Poly Incubator to expand our tech network. The fact that the LaunchPad provides a stipend, but does not seek equity, was also key in making this program a priority for Kinvolved this summer.
Tell us about the product that you are launching?
Kinvolved is a Benefit Corporation Certified company dedicated to increasing classroom attendance, particularly among America’s disadvantaged youth, by engaging families and communities in education. Kinvolved’s solution to absenteeism is three-fold: (1) facilitate improved communication of attendance information among schools, youth programs, and guardians by providing teachers and youth program directors with a software program which collects and stores student attendance data and communicates attendance information to parents and guardians via SMS/email in real time; (2) analyze the software program’s attendance data to identify trends, including students at risk due to absenteeism and lateness and the key underlying causes of absenteeism; and (3) based on the trends identified in the data, recommend interventions, such as partnerships with appropriate community-based organizations that provide supplemental support and resources, and policy advocacy groups that organize for data-driven policy reforms intended to affect an increase in student attendance.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Kinvolved’s market is large, and part of what we are working on this summer in the LaunchPad is honing in on our market and target customer. There are nearly 100,000 schools in the U.S.; 67,000 elementary, 24,000 secondary, and about 5,000 combined. There are distinct charter, public, and private markets. We are targeting those schools with students most at risk of dropping out, as research shows that attendance is one of three key indicators of high school graduation. Additionally, we have focused in on the eight states in which attendance funding allocated to schools per pupil depends directly on daily student attendance – so, those states in which there is a direct financial return on investment for schools and districts that invest in Kinvolved’s system to improve attendance. We are also considering a model to get into schools from the bottom up, by offering our system to individual teachers, and a model that enters the market from the side, through community-based organizations that work within schools.
What is your take on the current scene in New York today?
There is a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on education in NYC through thoughtful technologies. Kinvolved sets itself apart from other ed-tech companies as a Benefit Certified company, meaning that we are a true social venture driven by profit and impact. We are concerned about the impact Kinvolved is making on solving a tangible social issue, not just offering a flashy product to schools. We also have many colleagues, especially in the Teach for America network, who are former teachers who have used their experience in the classroom to innovate for the betterment of local education, which has a huge potential to positively affect NYC’s education system, children, and families.
Where does your company fit in the ecosystem?
Kinvolved is tackling attendance, an issue that is simple to comprehend, but that is often overlooked as one of the main barriers to academic success for students. A Benefit-Certified company, we are committed to generating profit and creating measured social impact. The potential for our success exists in our holistic three-part model, which combines technology with human capital to drive improved attendance rates. Large platforms, often perceived as competitors, actually have the potential to become partners in the future, as we prove our concept and the consumer desire for Kinvolved’s system. Many of these platforms seek innovative partners to build on top of their systems, which would be beneficial to both parties.