Schools of all sizes use Student Information Systems (SIS) to store student data like grades and attendance, but sharing that data with developers and vendors can be time-intensive, from manually exporting data to a CSV, to adding data to FTP servers, and emailing student data. San Francisco-based startup LearnSprout is trying to make it easier for schools to securely share their data through its set of APIs, which help schools share data from their student information systems with select third parties. Launched in April 2012, the company is currently working with over 20 vendors, and has been implemented in over 200 schools, with more on the waiting list.
LearnSprout co-founders Frank Chien, Anthony Wu and Joe Woo previously worked at Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft respectively, and they left their jobs to build a company in the education tech space. After interviewing over 100 teachers in the fall of 2011, they decided to build a syllabus management tool. When demoing it to teachers, they were often asked if it would integrate with their SIS, which is when the team realized there was a bigger opportunity.
They joined the Imagine K12 education-focused startup accelerator in January 2012, and shortly after started working on a way to extract data from a school’s SIS. “There’s no good way to get data out of an SIS,” Chien said in an interview. “We talked to a bunch of edtech vendors and developers and they all had the same problem, and thus LearnSprout was born.”
Chien said LearnSprout helps administrators solve their data integration problems. LearnSprout connects to a school’s existing SIS, either by getting a login from their administrator, using a CSV file with their data, or connecting to the SIS using a direct database connection. They work with vendors including haiku to help them integrate with a school’s SIS, and provide several data integration and provisioning products.
Schools can use LearnSprout for free, and the startup charges vendors who want to use their platform a flat fee. “Every edtech vendor who needs to talk to an SIS needs to do this in some way shape or form, and we can take over that process for them,” he said. “Vendors love this because instead of utilizing their engineering talent to worry about these kind of data ingestion problems, they can focus on high-leverage stuff like building cool products for teachers and administrators.”
There are other companies tackling data transparency in the edtech space, namely Y Combinator-backed Clever, which started working with 70 schools during its first month after launch. Frank said they’re different because they have a full suite of products to help connect schools with developers and vendors. “We can ingest data in more ways, we believe,” Chien said. “Currently we are also offering other services and products for schools.”
The company is in the process of raising over $1 million in seed funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Formation 8, and several other investors, which Frank said will be used the scale the team and the product. The company was also accepted into Code for America’s accelerator program, which focuses on startups combining government and community.
And while right now the team is focused on U.S.-based schools, they are working with a few international partners, and are planning to expand. Ultimately Chien said their mission is to enable developers to build education-focused apps, and to give schools a better way to leverage their data, with the goal of answering the question of “how can we drive innovation in education through data transparency?”