Tyton Partners has officially launched the second annual Tyton Growth50, an annual recognition of dynamic growth-stage companies across all markets in the education sector. In a space enamored with new, the Tyton Growth50 celebrates sustainability. The list recognizes the top 50 organizations achieving impact at scale through a combination of strong financial performance, market penetration, and innovative customer outcomes – attributes that form the basis of the Tyton Growth Framework.
Click here to nominate a Growth50 company for this year’s list.
To uncover what distinguishes the companies comprising the 2015 Tyton Growth50, we went straight to the source – the CEOs themselves. The following reflects an edited version of our conversation with Jason Lange, CEO of BloomBoard, on what is driving the company’s success and insights for entrepreneurs and investors seeking to penetrate the K-12 district landscape.
How would you describe the problem BloomBoard is solving?
If any of the promise of ed tech is going to be achieved, we must first be able to support teachers in scaling great instruction. Yet, teacher professional development remains a fairly ignored segment, with solutions still predominantly manual and not focused on outcomes. We are trying to address the problem of helping teachers to own their professional development experience and to do so at scale.
The challenges have not changed much – we need to collect data on the gaps in teacher practice and use that data and insight to drive engagement in teacher growth.
What are the key attributes that have enabled BloomBoard’s success?
We wouldn’t be here without the Race to the Top program, because it allowed us to win state-level contracts as a young company. If you’re building a business, understand the policy tailwinds and try to capitalize on them as much as possible.
The compliance nature of the K-12 ecosystem also helped us initially. However, we ultimately leveraged this dynamic not to facilitate punitive actions, but as a focal point for engaging district stakeholders and educators in achieving growth outcomes. We balanced alignment to the aspirational intentions of K-12 district leaders and educators, while supporting reporting objectives.
Finally, we have a really high quality bar for our products in this market. Unfortunately, the ed tech ecosystem still generally lags the consumer world considerably in terms of UI and ease-of-use. The more we can solve these problems and be responsive to our customers, the better.
Among our four attributes for the Growth50 – financial sustainability, market awareness, customer engagement, learner impact – which one was “easiest” for BloomBoard to achieve? The hardest?
Creating market awareness and customer engagement is where we’ve had the most success in scaling our business. We capitalized on the wave of compliance requirements in K-12, and found ourselves generating revenue before we had written our first lines of code.
The hardest thing is measuring and validating learner impact. Trying to connect professional development to student success is challenging and requires time…we think in the next year or so we will have some definitive data allowing us to make that connection.
If you could offer entrepreneurs one piece of advice about scaling a business in the education sector, what would it be?
You need to charge for your solution from Day 1. Charging districts will help you determine what level of value you have in the district infrastructure. And understanding this infrastructure, for example the policy landscape, decision-making processes, key influencers, and knowing how to navigate it, is the hardest thing to do in K-12 and is the key to success. Once you figure it out, the market is actually fairly rational and easy to navigate.