Q&A with Walter O. Duncan IV of Design by Educators, Inc.

EdTech Times spoke with Walter O. Duncan IV, co-founder of Design by Educators, Inc.—the force behind Quick Key, an innovative assessment app for smartphones that has just been profiled in the Boston Globe.


ETT: What is your elevator pitch? 

WOD: Design by Educators makes Quick Key, the smartphone app that works for teachers.

Quick Key turns your smartphone’s camera into an optical scanner, to grade quizzes in a flash. Quick Key grades quizzes, displays results and analytics, and even syncs with your school’s electronic grade book.

The company was founded by a career teacher (me) and Isaac D. Van Wesep, a friend and entrepreneur. We were joined in December 2012 by Marlon Davis, a 20-year veteran teacher and school leader.

ETT: What is your company’s core value proposition? What problem are you solving and for whom?

WOD: Quick Key can save teachers a dozen hours of work per week, and it allows teachers to collect micro-data on students’ mastery of lessons on a daily basis, making personalized instruction simple.

Quick Key also provides a bridge to the digital world for the 99% of teachers who work in paper/digital hybrid schools. It brings the speed and power of data to paper-based classrooms.

ETT: What is the biggest need for your startup?

WOD: More Great People! We are angel-backed, we have 34 years of combined K-12 experience on our 3-person management team, we are in touch with thousands of teachers and our beta test is oversubscribed.

But we want more teachers to get involved, by using Quick Key and giving us feedback.

ETT: What should we expect to see from your company in the next twelve months?

WOD: Expect to see us achieve our funding goal in our Kickstarter campaign, ending June 30. Expect to see the Quick Key beta on the Apple App Store for free this summer. Expect to see us raise more venture capital this summer and fall, and expect an Android version before the end of 2013. Quick Key Generation II is also due before the end of the year.

ETT: Why do you have a passion for this? What is your vision?

WOD: As a 14-year career teacher, I have a passion for the craft, and I love helping kids learn! There is nothing like it.

But for all the rewards of teaching, there is some real pain being felt by working teachers today. Above all, the distrust of ed-tech software, born of experience with bad software that asks a lot… and delivers little.  Teachers are stuck in the digital divide, and software makers have left them behind. Quick Key levels the playing field for teachers and students around the world.  And, our innovations in collaborative R&D mean that from now on, real working teachers will have a hand in designing software that solves their real problems.

My vision is for a world where teachers are the masters of their software, instead of the other way around. In this world, the power of digital technology is accessible to everybody, not just the world’s well-off, and all teachers have the time – and the information – they need to provide personalized instruction.

ETT: Which three startups or entrepreneurs do you follow and find interesting?

WOD: One of our advisers, Jim Poss, is the founder of Big Belly Solar. He invented something that nobody thought was necessary, but now his solar-powered waste receptacles are in almost every major US city. Selling to cities was an uphill battle he fought for years. But he succeeded.

37 Signals, the company behind Basecamp, makes software that simplifies complicated projects. We don’t use Basecamp any more, but I like how simple and focused Basecamp is, and the excellent user interface. Also, Basecamp’s open API is cool and encourages innovation from small start-ups.

But I also like the makers of Podio, the collaboration platform we currently use, because of its flexibility, and because the makers of Podio have put customer customization front and center, in an innovative way that brings their users into the conversation, and actually lets users easily “write” apps and share them with other users.

Thanks for speaking with us, Walter! 

Check out their “Dream Features Survey” for teachers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VXZJRQV

And also feel free to check out or contribute to their Kickstarter Campaign: http://tinyurl.com/QK-Kickstart

Check out Quick Key here:

Quick Key App

Yevgeny Ioffe

Yevgeny Ioffe

Yevgeny Ioffe, or as people call him, Yev, has been working in both the startup world and established companies. His career spans from joining Xplana Learning as it launched to Cengage Learning to MBS Direct when it acquired Xplana in 2009. Yevgeny brings to EdTech Times his passion for start-ups and technology, along with his interest in the ever evolving world of edtech. Yevgeny obtained his BSc and MA from Brandeis University and MBA from Boston College.