Q&A With Jack Macleod, President of Alma
EdTech Times spoke recently with Jack Macleod, President of Alma, a company that develops and provides a comprehensive cloud-based platform combining the features of SIS and LMS and respective data. Read below what Jack has to say about this specific market segment and his company.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Andrew Herman, Elizabeth Long, Michael Oliver
Category: Holistic Student Engagement Platform
Product stage: Market
LinkedIn company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/alma-inc-
Company Twitter: @getalma
President’s Twitter: @jackmacleod
ETT: What is the market segment your company is in?
Alma is in the segment of K-12 cloud-based software for school and classroom management.
ETT: Who are your core customers and how did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?
Our core customers are K-12 schools. We first realized there was a problem with the state of education management software through a series of experiences ranging from teaching at an elementary school, to hearing from many other teachers that the software available to them was inadequate. We did six months of research during which we interviewed hundreds of teachers across the country to define and validate the problem.
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it?
After defining the problem, we built a prototype and had ten schools test it over the course of a year. After a year’s worth of feedback, we honed in on the exact solution.
ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
We are doing the following things differently than our competition:
1) Offering a fully integrated SIS and LMS though a single platform we call a Holistic Student Engagement Platform
2) Providing a clean, simple, intuitive user experience that is notably better than anything else available
3) Saving our customers money by giving them more for less
We have a robust roadmap of additional differentiators to come in the future.
ETT: Please describe your product development strategy and product stage. What we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones?
We launched our current product a year ago. We have seen very strong traction with independent and charter schools both domestically and internationally, with usage rates among teachers and administrators that are higher than average. We continue to build out features suited to meet the needs of districts, so next milestones will be increased adoption by districts.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why is that so?
Alma is absolutely a disruptor, and will only become a more prominent one further into the future. We are disruptors because we have created the next category of mission critical education management software, and have had the audacity to enter a space dominated by big players with a new vision for streamlined and simplified workflow automation tools for schools. As long as the status quo persists, Alma will be a disruptor.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
Along with Andrew Herman (CEO) and Mike Oliver (Head of Product), I was one of the earliest employees at a Baltimore-based online advertising startup in 1999 called Advertising.com. I held roles in sales of increasing responsibility and was the company’s top producing seller for a number of years during our period of rapid growth. The company grew very quickly and consistently and was acquired by AOL in 2004 for half a billion dollars in a cash transaction.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company – who is that mentor?
I think the three of us who were at Advertising.com would view a number of the leaders from there as mentors and/or role models. Folks like Scott and John Ferber, Steve Root, Mollie Spillman – they were all exceptional and brilliant people and we’ve tried to follow their lead on how to build and run a business as best we can. Specific to education, Antoinette Dendtler ECO Charter School in Camden, New Jersey has been an invaluable partner and inspiration, as has Tom Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education.
ETT: Where is education technology market going in the next few years?
The market is going to move away from its current fragmented state and toward platforms that are more broad-reaching. Educators struggle with making sense of the landscape of niche technology tools, and the burden of connecting them to one another, and companies will start responding to what the market is asking for, to the benefit of everyone.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
You have to believe in what you are doing and want to make a difference in the lives of educators and students. The educators have this belief and commitment, and are wary of those who don’t.
EdTech Times thanks Jack Macleod for his time, and we recommend you learn more about Alma at:
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.