June 19, 2015, 3:19 PM

Early education mobile app Brightwheel raises $2.2 million

Brightwheel, a mobile app that helps teachers with record-keeping and parent communications, will use the money to hire an iOS engineer as well as a designer.

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Brightwheel, a mobile app that aims to aid pre-kindergarten teachers with record-keeping and parentcommunications, recently received $2.2 million in seed funding. Leading the funding round were RRE Ventures and Eniac Ventures, with participation from CrossLink Capital, Golden Venture Partners, Red Swan Ventures and Sherpa Ventures. 

The San Francisco-based mobile app launched last fall, says Dave Vasen, company founder and CEO. App users span 30 states, as well as the United Kingdom and Canada, he says. Funding will be used to extend its executive team—Brightwheel is looking to hire an iOS engineer as well as a designer—and expand the features available on the app.

Teachers use Brightwheel for daily record-keeping, communication with parents and to collect payments. The app automates attendance records, and guardians can use the app on a school’s iPhone or iPad iOs, Android, or tablet to check their child in for day care. In the future, Vasen hopes that parents will be able to use their own mobile devices to check their child in to school.  

Vasen also hopes to extend the business functions of Brightwheel. Pre-kindergarten education is a largely private $45 billion market in the U.S., with more than 12 million children enrolled, he says. After-school, teachers have to worry about updating parents on attendance and student activity, along with managing school finances.

“If you talk to any of the folks that own a preschool or day care, one of their biggest pain points is sending invoices and billing families,” he says. “In addition to educating the kids, we want to make it as easy as possible for teachers to handle the business side.”

Vasen says competition for Brightwheel is slim because the Software-as-a-Service app integrates so many different functions specialized for running a day care. Parents can use the app to exchange photos, chat and email educators. Teachers can track attendance and billing parents. SaaS technology, or software-as-a-service, lets users access software via a web browser without having to deploy it on their own web servers.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say teachers were using seven to 10 different systems for chat, billing, photos and everything,” he says. “What we engineered is a back-end, central database that can be used to run your business that comes with a school plug-in that we can add a lot of stuff to. We’re looking to get those seven to 10 systems down to one.”

Brightwheel was built in-house by the company’s four software engineers, and took a year to develop. The company hasn’t yet begun charging fees, but in early 2016 will start charging an “affordable” amount of money to teachers using its services, Vasen says. It was inspired by challenges Vasen experienced when his daughter Serena was enrolled in early education.

“From the parent side, it’s gut-wrenching to be away from your little one all day, but it’s even harder when you don’t know what’s going on or how best to continue the learning at home,” he says. “And from the school side, administrators and teachers face long hours, stringent legal requirements, a ton of paperwork and, frankly, no good tools to help them. Brightwheel makes early education easier for teachers and more engaging for families.”

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