|Remind Inc. co-founders Brett Kopf, left, and David Kopf/Remind Inc.
Technology investors and companies spent years trying to “move tech into the classroom.” Then the smartphone came along and changed everything, legendary investor John Doerr said.
“While nobody was looking, every kid walked in the door with all the tech they needed in the form of a smartphone in their pockets,” said Mr. Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Kleiner Perkins is now investing in apps that work on the devices students and teachers are bringing with them to class, and it is leading a $40 million Series C investment in San Francisco-based Remind, formerly Remind101.
According to Chief Executive Brett Kopf, the Remind mobile apps “make it incredibly easy for teachers to reach students and parents on a mobile phone.”
Teachers sign up to use the Remind app, then get and share a code with their students and the student’s parents.
Teachers can send messages such as homework and test prep reminders, notes of encouragement or congratulations, photographs depicting an activity that the class engaged in that day, quick surveys about a recent school activity or assignment, and weather or venue updates.
Students and parents can reply to teachers or athletic coaches only via “structured data,” not with free-form comments or voicemails of their own. They can check off a “yes” or “no” answer, or send an RSVP instead.
Because the messages are all archived within the app and could be accessible by a school administrator on request, the app is safer as a mode of communication than ad hoc approaches like exchanging mobile phone numbers, setting up locked Twitter accounts and lists, or establishing Facebook groups.
At the start of this school year, Remind was adding 300,000 users a day in the U.S. and was listed as the top education app in both Apple’s and Google’s U.S. app stores online, Mr. Kopf said.
The company plans to use the funding to support user growth in the U.S., with a number of hires in product development, engineering and its customer service team, which includes an effort to constantly interview teachers about their needs and uses of Remind’s technology.
The company also plans to expand internationally and keep its apps “forever free” for teachers to use, the CEO said.
Mr. Doerr said Remind appealed to his firm, among other things, because of its user growth rates and technology, which “solves a large underserved market need.”
About one-third of “people on the planet,” including teachers, students and their parents or guardians, could benefit from the Remind app, he said.
The company hasn’t yet begun to export its technology beyond the North America, he said, although about 10% of Remind’s users are based outside of the U.S.
The Series C funding should give Remind runway to focus on product development and user growth until at least 2016, Mr. Doerr said, adding that there’s no hard-and-fast rule about when a tech company must monetize its apps, or roll out paid, premium services.
He did suggest at least one way Remind could make money:
“In a lot of school districts in the U.S., there’s a requirement to have an emergency notification system for, God forbid, any disasters that might happen at the school,” he said.
“A taxpayer and school system would pay for something like Remind, which would get them away from these phone-tree dialers, and is pretty valuable.”
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