Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Glen Tullman is getting schooled in classroom tech

Glen Tullman is getting schooled in classroom tech

Former Allscripts Inc. executives Glen Tullman and Lee Shapiro are jumping into classroom technology, leading a $2.5 million investment in Digedu.
The three-year-old company uses tablets to help schools customize courses to students who often are at different academic levels. Digedu is used by 5,000 students in more than 40 schools in 12 states. About half the users are in Chicago, where the largest customer is Lane Tech Academic Center, a middle school on the North Side.
The company is run by Matthew Tullman, Mr. Tullman's 25-year-old nephew.
Glen Tullman, who runs tech venture fund 7wire with Mr. Shapiro, was looking for an opportunity in the education space at the same time his nephew was kicking around ideas for new media and technology.
"Matt is smart, energetic and had a passion for making a difference on an important problem," Mr. Tullman said. "He didn't take the investment banking path but wanted to go the entrepreneurial route. Digedu was a perfect fit where he could put his personal imprint on something."
The younger Tullman, who grew up in Denver, worked at an education think tank and traveled to Colombia to do research on the FARC rebels. He saw the power of new media firsthand when people used Facebook to coordinate protests in 35 countries.
The Tullmans came up with Digedu, an app-based curriculum that works on tablets or laptops.
“Tablets allow students to learn at their own pace, and textbooks are out of date as soon as they're printed,” Matthew Tullman says.
The company will use the funding to step up sales and marketing. It has 17 employees, which Mr. Tullman plans to nearly double this year. He expects customers will grow slightly faster, fueled by the push toward “Common Core” education standards that he says will entice educators to consider new curriculum tools, such as Digedu. “They're realizing there are better ways to engage students.”
So far, 7wire has announced 10 investments. Glen Tullman says it's just a start, and he plans to make more investments this year in education and health care.
"7wire is focused on solving the most significant problems we face as a society, and we think that health care and education both are in that category," he said. "Nothing is more important, and we're not getting good grades in either."
Follow John on Twitter at @JohnPletz.

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