Technology has long been a tool in the classroom but hasn’t always been the most effective one. Edward Fields, founder & CEO of HotChalk, an online learning resource for pre K-12 teachers, is looking to change that.
SM: Let’s start with your background. Where do you come from, what is your family like, how was your upbringing? What are the roots of your career?
EF: My parents were educators. My father chaired the Molecular Genetics program at Harvard and my mother taught art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Education is a crucial part of my family’s story and that has strengthened since I had my four children, three of whom currently attend public school and one is in college. I launched HotChalk to actively involve myself in raising the quality of education worldwide.
SM: What did you do before you established HotChalk?
EF: I was the founder, President and CEO of ProductFactory, a product lifecycle management company. Prior to ProductFactory I was director of Interactive Publishing at The Learning Company which is an education software company focused on the consumer market.
SM: What type of company was ProductFactory and how did you conceive the idea?
EF: ProductFactory provided product development program and portfolio management solutions to Global 1000 enterprises. The offering was spun out of a client-server PLM company called WorkGroup Technology (formerly NASDAQ: WKGP).
SM: What was the value proposition of ProductFactory?
EF: It was all about delivering a product development / program management application that used deliverables as a central organizing principal. The application could push complex, globally deployed supply chains through the phase-gate product development methodology. It was an innovative approach which made it possible to include suppliers in the product development process thus helping companies accelerate time-to-market, reduce costs and improved quality across the product lifecycle.
SM: How did you fund ProductFactory?
EF: ProductFactory was bootstrapped with a $1M friends and family round.
SM: What were the major milestones behind ProductFactory?
EF: Obviously the founding was memorable, which was in November of 1999. After a year of product development, the company delivered an Internet enabled solution that was selected for deployment by some early adopter firms including Eclipse Aviation and PlugPower, one of the first companies attempting to commercialize fuel cell technology. We were very proud of the fact that companies trying to break existing product paradigms chose ProductFactory as a management tool. We enabled a radically new approach to innovation by leveraging the Internet for supply chain collaboration at the innovation stage of the product lifecycle. Later, the product was chosen to manage complex, globally deployed supply chain innovations for GlaxoSmithKline, Cisco and Dell.
SM: What were ProductFactory’s revenues?
EF: It was a low seven figure run-rate business with a handful of leading edge customers when Agile Software licensed the product and ultimately acquired ProductFactory, in 2003. I stayed on at Agile as Senior Vice President, Marketing for a year and then went on to start HotChalk.
SM: What was the final exit value?
EF: The terms of the acquisition were not published and the information is restricted by the acquisition agreement. That said, because we had bootstrapped the business, it was a great financial outcome for the founder, executive staff and our investors at a time when positive outcomes were few and far between because of the dot com meltdown.