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Startup interview: Klassroom

At Urban Linker, we are passionate about startups, so we're always happy to share some beautiful projects with our readers! Have a look at this interview of Frank-David Cohen, CEO & co-founder @Klassroom.

25.07.2017

Tell us a bit about your background, your training?

After going through an Engineering school in Mathematics and Informatics, I started a few different companies by myself: first in 2004 developing a CMS (which was well received by SMEs at the time), then in 2007 with a crowdfunding platform. Unfortunately, regulations were a bit stricter back then so I had to give up the project.
I founded Room in 2014, a social network that allows you to create and manage communities (friends, families, associations, businesses, etc). Only two months after we launched our app, Facebook did the exact same with Rooms. We are currently on trial with them.
Because of this crisis, my partner and I went through our options. We soon realized that Room perfectly met the needs of schools; after months talking and exchanging with teachers and parents, we adapted Rooms and created Klassroom at the beginning of 2016. 
 Tell us a bit about your background, your training?

Can you pitch Klassroom in a few words?

Klassroom is an app that puts teachers in touch with school kids parents: it replaces the traditional paper notebook used to communicate, which, despite its inefficiency is still used in most of the French public schools. Via the app, the teacher can create a classroom (a feed), where he/she can post information (documents, pictures, events…). Parents can only interact for specific reasons (absence, meeting requests…), so the teacher isn’t peppered with questions all the time.
 

How did you come up with the idea?

My associate, Damien Rottemberg (Klassroom co-founder & CTO) is divorced and doesn’t have custody of his daughter. He can only see her once every two weeks, and it quickly became very hard for him to stay updated on what was going on with her day-to-day life. We identified here a real need! We’ve known each other for 20 years and we share the same vision, so it all came quite naturally! 

What were the major challenges you faced in the beginnings?

At some point, we simply ran out of cash. The first funds that we raised for Rooms (100.000€) were gone. One of our investors, Daniel Kahn, saw the potential in Klassroom, and invested another 40.000€, which allowed us not only to maintain our activity, but also to raise another 300.000€ from business angels and the Idinvest fund (through Smart Angels).
We also had some issues with the development of our website: in the beginning we worked with different freelance contracts, but it didn’t really work out for us. Eventually, Damien (who also studied engineering) got sick of it and decided to take care of the whole thing himself! 

What helped you go through with the project?

Back when we were working on Room, our families and friends were our main investors. Thanks to them, we raised 140.000€. Once we started Klassroom, we raised 300.000€: it allowed us to maintain the activity, to validate our hypothesis, our traction, etc. Another fundraising is on its way to accelerate the deployment in France and through Europe.
Another big moment for us was when we signed an Experimentation Convention with the Ministry of National Education. This convention allowed us to test Klassroom in every context (urban, rural, REP), and make sure the app answers a real need, while measuring its impact. Teachers who were testing the app also tended to trust it more easily.
Last but not least, in January we hired a Growth Hacker, Diane Lahmy. She has been dealing with the teacher / school relationship, but is also developing a network of bloggers and influencers, while taking care of the social network and PR! Since she joined, our numbers are going up the roof! 

What technologies do you use?

Both our website and our web app are developed using Javascript & PHP. The mobile apps are Java native for Android, Objective-c for the V1 of iOS and Swift 3.0 for the V2. 

How is Klassroom innovative? Why are you going to succeed?

Until Klassroom, there was no solution in France that could simply meet the need for communication between parents and teachers. Emails, Whatsapp, the notebook… None of these were really adapted. We are also the only app to be truly in compliance with French laws (especially when comparing with our main American competitors).
We will succeed because we meet a real need, and we can prove it: we have an adoption & retention rate of 100%! The feedbacks are excellent, some teachers even told us Klassroom changed the way they teach, and they wouldn’t stop using it under any circumstances! 

Since when is Klassroom available?

Klassroom has been available since September 2016. 

Were you inspired by other companies?

I’ve always been fascinated by startups success stories, I always try to understand the mechanisms of communications. It’s probably been heard before, by I’ve always admired Apple for their simplicity: they quickly understood that reducing the number of functionalities to what’s essential made it easier to handle (and therefore to adopt) their products. In a way, we also tried to reduce Klassroom to the bare minimum, so that both parents and teachers could use the app spontaneously, without having to go through a whole training. 
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