Sohit Wadhwa has a plan to stand out among the plethora of apps to help schools and parents communicate. More ways to communicate with parents—whether via email, Amazon Alexa or any number of apps and devices. More partnerships with student information systems to gain more schools as customers.
Wadhwa, CEO of ParentSquare, now has a new partner to help bring his strategy to reality. His company has acquired Signal Kit, provider of a competing school communications app. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We were friendly competitors,” says Wadhwa. “This gives us a bigger market share and another path to success.”
The combined company will reach two million students nationwide across 44 states, including about 20 percent of California students, claims Wadhwa. Districts that use ParentSquare include Wayne Township Metropolitan School District in Indiana, Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in Texas and Garden Grove Unified School District in California.
Teacher Eric Jarvis gives a positive review of ParentSquare.
ParentSquare will continue to focus on growth in the near term in California, Indiana and New York, among other states, Wadhwa says. The company started out focused on charter school networks and has branched out into public school districts.
Founded in 2011, ParentSquare supports more than 100 languages and reaches parents by app, email, text, voice-operated devices and web portal. Educators use ParentSquare and similar apps to send alerts, report cards, attendance notices, permission slips and sign-up forms. Parents can view secured documents and check outstanding lunch balances.
Signal Kit, founded in 2014 and based in Overland Park, Kan., is a smaller fish than ParentSquare, which has 33 full-time employees. Before the acquisition, Signal Kit’s team of six built a business that served about 200 districts, primarily in California.
Districts should notice little change from the acquisition to start, says Wadhwa. “For the perceivable future, the focus is getting this right,” he says.
Competition continues to heat up among school communication apps, which have turned to investors and acquisitions to get ahead. ClassDojo raised $35 million last year, while Classtag raised $3.6 million and Possip raised $1 million. Edlio, which provides tools for K-12 web design, parent communication and content management, acquired an online payments and receipts provider in September.
More schools are talking about communications strategies for contacting parents through technology, says Mellissa Braham, an associate director at National School Public Relations Association, a trade association for school communication professionals.
This has resulted in some schools and districts housing a hodgepodge of communication services for parents to track. Braham’s organization recommends schools and district form committees of educators, administrators and parents to learn about what’s in use and what’s needed.
Meanwhile, communication app providers must be mindful of the volume of messages parents receive—some parents want more updates while others want less. “It starts with doing research on stakeholder needs,” says Braham. Companies need to know: Who are they, how do they like to get information and what do they want to know?”