Educators know parents can influence how students perform in school. Yet parents often lament about how little they know about what their kids are actually doing in class. In recent years, many entrepreneurs have developed apps that aim to help open this black box for parents. ClassDojo and Remind are often cited, but others like ParentSquare and TalkingPoints are also competing for attention.
Now there’s a new name to add to the growing list of venture-backed school communication startups: Bloomz, based in Seattle, WA, has raised $2.3 million from 8VC, ffVenture Capital, Founder’s Co-op, CorrelationVC, Wisemont Capital, Acequia Capital and angel investors.
The story behind Bloomz follows a familiar script for many edtech entrepreneurs: a former technology executive (in this case, from Microsoft) has kids, sends them to school, and realizes there are inefficiencies and pain points in the education system that technology can address. In this case, “it was hard to get visibility into what is really happening in school,” Chaks Appalabattula, the company’s founder and CEO, tells EdSurge in an interview.
Available on mobile devices and web browsers, Bloomz allows teachers to send direct messages and share photos from a class activity or field trip. The tool also aims to help teachers organize and manage parent volunteers for extracurricular activities, and schedule parent-teacher conferences.
Upon creating a class account, teachers invite students’ parents to use the app via email or a unique class code. When teachers send a message, parents can choose to receive it in any of the 80 different languages currently supported by the app. Parents also have the ability to message one another.
Students cannot sign up as Bloomz is “primarily intended to create an engaged parent community around the classroom” and “empower parents to participate in school activities and allow [them] to get connected to the world around their kids,” says Appalabattula.
For teachers, the ability to reach every parent—and vice versa—can be both empowering and terrifying. Roughly 60 percent of all messages on Bloomz are sent by parents. But Appalabattula hopes the tool will alleviate the concerns that drive parents to hover around (and possibly annoy) teachers. “The typical helicopter parent will go away since [he or she] now has greater visibility into the classroom,” he claims.
Since its launch in March 2015, Bloomz has users in more than 10,000 schools. The funding will allow the company to grow its current headcount of six full-time employees. It also harbors ambitions to woo users from youth community organizations such as church gatherings, daycare centers, Girl and Boy Scout groups, and after-school programs.
Other startups that also aspire to foster parent-teacher community, such as Kaymbu and FreshGrade, offer a combination of free and paid services. But not all have fared well. At least two—ClassParrot and MommaZoo—have closed shop.
In a crowded market, Bloomz has its work cut out. It may not help that it shares a similar name—and logo color—with one of the biggest edtech flameouts in recent edtech memory. But Appalabattula exudes plenty of confidence that his app can become the bridge that “connects adults’ personal, professional and parenting worlds.”