In 2005, educator and entrepreneur Jen Medbery developed a web-based software tool known as Kickboard, which measures student performance and allows teachers to capture, analyze and share data in order to enable more effective classroom management and learning. Kickboard helps schools intervene with off-track students by analyzing various data points as early warning triggers, and in turn alert teachers of potential learning concerns. Kickboard’s platform proactively combines academic and behavioral data to give teachers a "whole child" perspective of a student's progress in order to make informed decisions on learning outcomes, school performance and even school culture. Medbery shares her innovation story:
[Q] What inspired you to develop Kickboard?
[A] Technology has always been my first passion. As an undergraduate student in New York City, I majored in computer science, expecting to go west to work for a software company after graduation. Instead, I was recruited to join Teach For America, where I headed south to the Mississippi Delta as a math teacher. I then relocated to New Orleans to join the founding team of a charter school. It was the experiences in my own classroom, and those of my colleagues, that provided the inspiration for Kickboard. Three years of teaching showed me how important coordinated management was to student achievement, but the tools we had at our disposal – traditional gradebooks, spreadsheets, paper and pencils – provided little visibility into how students were doing as a whole.
[Q] Why did you pick Louisiana to develop Kickboard?
[A] There were three primary reasons why I founded Kickboard in Louisiana and those reasons are why I believe Louisiana is the best place for anyone looking to launch an education business. First, the concentration of charter schools and the commitment to reform and innovation in education made New Orleans an obvious place to pilot initial versions of our software. Secondly, the business community in this state is truly that – a community. At each stage of the company’s growth, we’ve found local resources and networks – The Idea Village accelerator programs, LaunchPad co-working space, the Tulane Business Plan Competition to name a few – to be valuable sources of funding and talent. Third, there are strong economic incentives that make Louisiana an attractive place to do business, such as the Research and Development Tax Credit, Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive, and Angel Investor Tax Credit.
[Q] What is Kickboard doing that no other company is doing?
[A] As the leading instructional management solution focused on the whole child, Kickboard is helping schools reimagine how data is used to inform instructional decisions and keep kids on track. Our software platform is the only one on the market that integrates academic and behavioral data as early warning indicators that trigger when a student is at risk of being off track
[Q] When did you realize that Kickboard would be a success?
[A] As I often tell my team: yes - we’ve built a mission-critical product and a national customer base, but we are still just getting started. It’s too early in the game to claim victory, when there’s still significant opportunity to grow our market share and make a positive impact on educational outcomes in this country. Like many entrepreneurs, my journey has had its fair share of twists and turns. As a first time business owner, accessing initial capital was a challenge that required creativity, perseverance and reliance on local networks.
[Q] What would you say to aspiring Louisiana entrepreneurs and innovators?
[A] Keep going, keep going, keep going, but don’t go it alone. The business community here is committed to your success. I would highlight resources afforded to entrepreneurs here, from a steadily growing number of capital sources to a creative and hard-working talent pool to a business community and policy environment that is committed to helping businesses thrive. This is where the next generation of high-impact education businesses is being born.