Krishanu Sengupta met fellow education reform advocate Andres Ramos in Dallas. In 2011 they were both involved in a citywide movement to fix a public school district mired in struggle.  They observed a serious class divide in the public debate and witnessed public conversation at once divisive and downright dirty. 

In well-educated, Millennial fashion, Krishanu and Andres envisioned a better way and began building a startup.  The startup took the form of a city focused online forum; described to me by Krishanu in three guiding principles: 

  • An online service that connects community members, education organizations and their members, and elected officials around upcoming local policy decisions in education.
  • Enables community members to learn about upcoming legislation from education experts, and then add their opinion as well as alert experts and officials about other issues that should be the subject of legislation.
  • A lobbying platform for education organizations to mobilize their members, elected officials, and community organizations around time sensitive policy decisions. 

Over the summer the two recruited a technical contributor and developed a prototype of their idea. Interactive prototype + screenshots = roadshow and I met the duo in the Fall of 2011 at an education policy networking event, SparkEd. 

We soon began meeting regularly at my home in Deep Ellum. Their concept was strong, but was comprised of many feature stubs.  My particular interest in the project was to scope and execute a primary research effort into local issue advocacy.  I committed to Krishanu and Andres to help them refine their existing prototype towards a private beta release while concurrently executing formative social research.  The research effort focused on education reform related advocacy behavior in Dallas across the first six months of 2012.  Special attention was paid to DISD board of trustees electioneering, triggers and intensity of citizen participation in public governance, and levels of satisfaction among district administration, teachers, trustees, parents and reform activists.  

Mitchell Savage and Chris Bhatti joined our team to help raise funding for the project. The team opted to pursue a for-profit venture with PolicyPulse and applied to the Dallas technology incubator, TechWildcatters. Although in our earliest stages, we were accepted to the 2012 program and Andres, Krishanu, and I committed ourselves full-time as co-founders. 

By the end of the program, we had launched a super-simplified service to a small group of education influencers and successfully pre-sold an offering to a handful of important partners in Dallas.  These pre-sales commitments were marked to fund development of an expanded public pilot while a soft-committed round of angel funding would be led by one of these partners pending achievement of key milestones in the pilot plan. By the end of the program, however, it was clear that our team was struggling to achieve escape velocity on the technical effort.  Having freshly graduated law school at SMU, Krishanu was enticed to Nevada to work in the state’s Department of Education as Deputy Director. Mitchell decided to leave business (for a time) and focus on launching the Texas chapter of advocacy organization, Stand for Children, as executive director.  Christopher continued his effort in alumni relations at SMU and Andres continues his work in education reform to this day at the non-profit, commit! http://commit2dallas.org/

Download the Design Research. (PDF)