SM: What stage are you at now in terms of revenue, profitability and users? What metrics do you use for evaluation – traffic, unique visitors, other metrics?
EF: In banker’s parlance, HotChalk is a Stage 4 Company with shipping product, revenue and sustainable growth. We will begin fundraising for global expansion in a year or so. Our traffic is continuing to expand: 7.1 million monthly unique visitors and 375,000 teachers use our service in 66,315 schools and 188 countries. Our largest teacher concentration is in Florida where we have more than 10,000 registered teachers.
SM: What is your business model? What is the value proposition for investors?
EF: Advertising is the key to the HotChalk business model. We are able to provide free services and content as corporations place relevant advertising throughout our network. HotChalk never advertises to students during the school day and we never advertise to students in elementary school. We do not accept advertising from fast food companies or anything that is sexually suggestive. HotChalk only presents tasteful advertising to meet the needs of students in a positive way.
We recognize we have a responsibility to the pre K-12 audience because of the age and the educational environment where our application is viewed.
SM: Can you describe your team building process and philosophy? Is your team complete?
EF: We are always looking for the best and brightest who share our passion for education. Our management team is seasoned in software development, education technology and, perhaps most important, technology adoption in the public preK-12 setting. Those who are an ideal fit also have all-important experience building tech startups from ground up into successful organizations. HotChalk is a “small but mighty” company where every individual makes an impact on the organization and as a result makes a significant impact on teachers worldwide.
As a graduate of the Marine Officer Candidate program, I’m a believer in the inverted management pyramid. Leaders work for their followers and it’s the leader’s job to make sure that the team has the tools, training and resources necessary to carry the day.
SM: What is your continued growth strategy? How will you manage growth selling to schools, something other companies have found difficult so far?
EF: HotChalk approaches school districts and individual schools directly to sell premium services. Based on data gathered from our free offerings for teachers, when we approach a district we can tell them with precision how teachers in their area are using specific HotChalk programs and how those programs that affect their teaching. Districts see that HotChalk brings immediate value since, more often than not, their teachers are already on our system. Administrators often end up reconsidering proposals from companies with products that are interesting and yet provide limited value because of adoption challenges.