It's been a gold rush for education start-ups, with venture investors betting that schooling is poised for a technology face-lift.
But making money in the space hasn't been so easy. School budgets remain tight, educators are typically underpaid and students have grown up in a world dominated by free Facebook and Snapchat apps.
Heading into the 2016-2017 school year, Remind — a start-up that already has some 35 million users — is ready to test its first cash-generating model.
The San Francisco-based company led by two brothers has spent the past five years developing a mobile communication service for teachers, students and parents that is now used in some capacity by over half of U.S. public schools and three-quarters of districts.
John Doerr, the venture capitalist who made a fortune on Amazon.com and Google, is a major backer. His firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers along with Social Capital and other investors have poured $60 million into the company. Funding of ed-tech companies peaked last year at $3.3 billion, covering 511 deals, according to CB Insights.
The purpose of Remind is to eliminate all of the back-and-forth paperwork that takes place when classes go on field trips, hold fundraisers and schedule school plays. Through a secure messaging system, it also lets teachers communicate with parents about homework assignments.
Now teachers can use Remind's new feature called Activities to collect payments for events. Remind charges 5 percent to the participant. For example, if a third-grade class is visiting an art museum and the charge is $10 per student, parents can submit the payment on Remind the same way they'd buy from Amazon or order an Uber. The total cost would be $10.50, with Remind generating 50 cents in revenue.