THE CLACO CONNECTION: Eric Simons has the true grit of an entrepreneur. He quit school to work on his original edtech idea, ClassConnect, and became part of the first cohort at Imagine K12. ClassConnect aimed to help teachers create Common Core standards-aligned curriculum and share it with others. When he ran out of cash, he couch surfed in the building where Imagine K12 was located until he was napped by grumpy building executives.
After moving out, Simons, with the help of some VC funding, set up shop in a house. In March, he opened up ClassConnect--now shortened to Claco--in a private beta for teachers. ("We wanted a new name with a blank slate.") Over the course of ten weeks, 16,000 teachers signed up. And the data he received was particularly eye-opening--and led him to reorient his focus.
Most teacher community websites, says Simons, are "forced into a curriculum mindset." The activity he saw on Claco instead "was a reflection the entire teaching identity. It wasn't just about curriculum, but also projects students were doing in class, events, presentations, side-projects...sometimes teachers just wanted to see what other teachers are interested in." Teachers using his product were more interested in following the activities of their colleagues more so than finding new tools.
This week, Simons and his team of five debuted Claco's new site, and will be opening the floodgates to tens of thousands more teachers. There will be a vetting process for invitations; Simons wants to make sure that the early adopters are ambitious, motivated, and (most importantly) verified teachers. There will still be features that allow teachers to look for tools, but ultimately what Simons wants to see are vibrant activity streams that make his product "inherently viral." Rock on, Eric!