Edward Marflak founded Schoolwires in 2000 with the mission to serve schools with a solution for managing and sharing information with students and families. Ben Franklin Technology Partners, part of Happy Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, provided support that helped the company develop from fledgling educational platform to global content management system used by more than 1,700 school districts and 11 million people.
Happy Valley’s Technology-Based Economic Development Program
“From the beginning, Schoolwires believed that a successful school district is the result of total community involvement,” notes Elizabeth Wilson, Director of Ben Franklin Technology Partners. That belief was the bedrock of the company’s success, along with its core values and its mission to build stronger school communities while supporting students.
“Their intuitive technologies helped administrators, educators, students and parents communicate and collaborate. Inc. Magazine ranked the company as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States,
“In 2000, Ben Franklin made its first of three investments in Schoolwires,” continues Wilson. “The company was developing and implementing an innovative e-commerce business that provided dedicated internet services to primary and secondary schools. By bringing the student, teacher and parent together online, their model made it easy for schools to create powerful, customized sites that helped parents become more involved in their children’s academic progress and extracurricular activities.”
From that initial investment through 2002, Ben Franklin made two more investments, helping Schoolwires grow from its startup stage to a 200-employee powerhouse in Penn State’s Innovation Park.
“Their intuitive technologies helped administrators, educators, students and parents communicate and collaborate. Inc. Magazine ranked the company as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States,” Wilson says.
From Happy Valley Headquarters to Global Educational Powerhouse
In 2015, Schoolwires’ industry-leading services and solutions joined the Blackboard, Inc. family. At the time of the acquisition, Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt noted that the merger was a key step in Blackboard’s mission of reimagining education.
“Schoolwires has created some of the most innovative products, solutions and services that improve K-12 communications and community engagement,” he said. “By adding Schoolwires to the Blackboard portfolio, we are uniquely positioned to help district leadership transition K-12 schools to these new models with the participation and support of their communities.”
Success Fuels New Investments
“Ben Franklin is funded by the Commonwealth to make these very early, risky investments,” Wilson explains. “Emerging tech entrepreneurs quickly discover that there are very few places to get startup capital. Banks and traditional angel investors typically need to see a certain level of sales revenue, cash flow, and asset ownership to make a loan or investment.”
When startups like Schoolwires pay back the investment, Ben Franklin uses it to reinvest in new clients, keeping the entrepreneurial flames burning bright in Happy Valley.
To learn more about Ben Franklin, visit https://benfranklin.org/what-is-bftp