Any startup founder or investor will tell you that starting a business in education technology is especially hard work. Reetu Gupta, founder of Cirkled in, would agree, but she’s not listening.
“I think it’s changing. I know it’s changing because it has to. Education can’t be the dinosaur in today’s day and age,” Gupta said.
Founded in 2014, Gupta started Cirkled in, a web-based platform that captures and compiles a young student’s accomplishments, projects, and extracurricular activities through school, as a business-to-customer platform, but teachers and school administrators encouraged Gupta to pitch the platform to schools. In September 2015, the company pivoted slightly to offer a dashboard solution for schools and teachers.
“I have LinkedIn, but as it’s the kids who change grade and teacher every year, and change schools every three to four years. They’re involved in tens of activities over 18 years, and they are the ones who apply to many applications,” Gupta said. “I don’t even change jobs for five years and I have LinkedIn, and she doesn’t? There are baby books and there’s a professional record on LinkedIn, but the whole 17 years in between are missing.”
Education technology can be tricky because when tech solutions serve students, it also must serve multiple generations, including millennials, Gen X-ers, and baby boomers. In public schools, there the added frustration, red tape and bureaucracy of dealing with publicly funded schools.
But Gupta said the landscape of education is changing, due in part because large tech companies and foundations, such as Apple, Microsoft, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are getting involved in changing education.
“Education may not be sexy today, but it’s our future. If we don’t have education, we wont have driver-less cars, or going to Mars,” Gupta said. “We have to get these next generations of kids ready for technology and making breakthroughs like we are seeing in tech today. ”
Gupta created Cirkled in as a solution for a pain point she experienced as a parent: school applications. When Gupta’s daughter was 10 years old, they explored different middle schools and began submitting applications for enrollment. The problem was, even though Gupta considered herself an organized parent who kept track of her daughters accomplishments and projects, and organized documents in a bin, it still took three weeks to compile one application submission.
“And then what happens for high school, and summer camp, and internships, and college?” Gupta said. “I just wanted to put my head in the sand because I was afraid of the college admission process. There’s got to be a better way for (my daughter) to compile activities over time.”
Cirkled in is positioned to be the LinkedIn for school applications, taking place of the myriad platforms elementary schools and colleges currently use.
According to Gupta, the platform is gaining the most traction with middle-of-the-road students and those who don’t have a lot of resources for extracurricular activities. The platform is available as a pilot program at six area schools, three of which have 60 to 70 percent of the student body receiving free or reduced fare lunch.
“It’s those kids who don’t have that garage or that mom who’s accumulating everything. It’s those kids who don’t go to a zillion activities, for them it’s even more important to say ‘This is who I am. I bag groceries at Safeway and this is what I learned,'” she said.
The platform compiles information into seven categories that recruiters look at when considering a new student: academics, supplemental learning, summer activities, sports, music and arts, internships and work experience, and volunteering.
“Cirkled in doesn’t say you have to participate in 20 different things. There are no benchmarks,” Gupta said. “It’s just capturing your life and putting that in front of a recruiter. It does not push one way or the other for kids to do more or less. This is just capturing whatever you are doing.”