Paying it forward with a cool teacher tool.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Jamie Rosenberg was mentoring a student in a nearby school for mentally and physically delayed pre-kindergarten students. “I saw how little the classroom had and how much the teacher was spending of her own money,” says Jamie, a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer. “I quit the law to launch AdoptAClassroom.org to provide an easy way for members of the community to donate to classrooms.” That was back in 1999. He’s been a teachers advocate ever since. Here, he talks about evolving ClassWallet and the opportunity to bring positive change to everyday education.
What gave you the idea for ClassWallet?
Jamie: During the later years of my first venture, AdoptAClassroom.org, I became more acutely aware of the degree of inefficiency of how funding and procurement were managed in schools. As I dug deeper, I realized how big the problem was, and was excited by the massive opportunity to make school administrators and teachers lives easier.
Can you name a single other profession that requires employees to spend their own money to get the job done? It’s simply absurd!
What prompted you to actually go ahead with the idea and make it real?
Jamie: I am an entrepreneur at heart. When I see an opportunity, especially as big as this one, I had to go for it.
What sort of development went into it, who did you listen to? What lessons did you learn?
Jamie: A ton of development went into ClassWallet. The technology is something that has not been done before, and we actually just filed our patent. I’ve had some key mentors along the way that have given me good advice. I also had the benefit of participating in the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, Powered by Techstars. The lessons I learned were invaluable.
Could you have done this in the 1990s? Is it more possible with today’s technology?
Jamie: I could have done it in the ‘90s but it would have taken much longer and would have been much more expensive.
Jamie: Simply put: we save time and expense. It has been estimated that it costs $100 – $200 every time a funding event takes place in a school, and it can take months between an educator identifying a need and actually getting the resource. ClassWallet reduces the transaction cost to next to nothing and collapses a process from months to same day.
How does AdoptAClassroom weave into ClassWallet?
Jamie: AdoptAClassroom.org is where my passion for edtech started. Through AdoptAClassroom.org I grew to become a huge teachers’ advocate. Teachers are the key to the success of our schools and children. I feel their seat at the table is not proportionate to the importance of their role. That AdoptAClassroom.org in some small way empowered teachers and exposed donors to the challenges that teachers face is something that I am very proud of.
What have been some highlights in rolling it out, what sort of feedback are you getting?
Jamie: Nothing feels better when that product/market fit really clicks. The platform went through a few iterations. Once we determined that our value proposition laid in the ease by which funding and spending can be tracked, we really hit our groove. An early highlight was a survey we conducted after landing our first enterprise customer, the responses far exceeded even our highest expectations.
Any stories, anecdotes you care to share that make it all worth it?
Jamie: We were speaking with Head of Revenue with one of our strategic partners and one of the largest retailers in the world. After a lengthy Q&A he congratulated us on having a really powerful platform. Hearing that from someone of his experiences confirmed to me that we really were on to something big.
What are your thoughts on teachers spending for their classrooms these days? Is this a systemic shame or something else?
Jamie: Can you name a single other profession that requires employees to spend their own money to get the job done? It’s simply absurd!
Any statistics that help support your mission?
Jamie: School budgets are shrinking, and student populations are growing. Education technology and innovation is blossoming and schools and educators are figuring out new ways to find money to get what they need. As schools rely more and more on supplemental sources of capital, there is growing need to maintain accountability and transparency in the process. That’s where ClassWallet fits in.
What are your thoughts on various operations of education helped by technology?
Jamie: I am a huge fan of technology streamlining operations. I do think the debate is still out there regarding the returns of more technology in the classroom.
Anything else you care to add or emphasize?
Jamie: The case for the classroom P&L. Someday soon, teachers will have their own budgets to meet classroom needs and we will all be much better off for it.
Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org