As science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) becomes a bigger focus in education, teachers and tech directors have to get tablets, software, video games, robotics and Arduino kits into the classroom to ensure that today’s students are trained for tomorrow’s tech industries.
That’s made edtech a lucrative space for entrepreneurs (industry experts expect the market to grow at 17 percent annually, to $252 billion worldwide by 2020), but a bit of a challenge for schools. Sure you have Chromebooks for students, but how do you choose the programs that students use on their tablets? How do you ensure any new software is compatible with your current technology? Which robotics kits are the most beneficial for your students? And how do you find the room in your budget to both maintain technology and keep up with the latest edtech trends?
That’s where Chicago startup Classform comes in. They’re aiming to create the “Mint.com” for schools’ STEM products, essentially a one stop platform where tech directors can monitor their tech and STEM spending, identifying where they can spend and save, as well as sell off old equipment and purchase vetted edtech items from manufacturers on the platform.
“What we want to do at the end of the day is create this single unified view of technology in schools,” said cofounder Tony Sheffler.
Sheffler and his cofounder Blair Walsh have a background in IT and sales, but were drawn to edtech when they realized schools weren’t aware of the value of their old technology. They started a company called Nobi that facilitated buyback of tablets, such as iPads and Chromebooks. Soon they realized that even when schools had money from these sales, they weren’t sure how to make the best investments in new technology. The two decided to create a more comprehensive platform that not only facilitates buyback of tech, but helps teachers and tech directors make the next tech purchasing decision, and relaunched their expanded company as Classform at the end of 2016.
Classform’s SaaS platform is free for schools to use, and they’re gearing up for a beta program this spring. They’re also partnered with about 20 manufacturers and are regularly onboarding more. Sheffler says these partnerships provide a targeted marketing tool for companies, and a revenue stream for Classform–when schools are ready to make a tech purchase, they can do it directly through the Classform platform (Classform is bootstrapped to date, but Sheffler said they’re talking with investors).
Their platform will also include curriculum and training on STEM products from the manufacturers to help teachers better integrate tech in their classrooms, as well as a social feature that lets schools discuss how different products worked in their school.
“The goal here is to connect data and ultimately build information sharing communities within schools,” said Sheffler.