In the paper-reliant education sector, there's plenty of room to embrace digital opportunities. And Wellington company Educa is one of the new wave of startups out to shake up education by improving communication between early childhood providers and parents.
Founder Nathan Li says more than 20 childcare centres around the country, including Childspace and Littleschools, have adopted his web-based application.
Educa allows teachers to create secure profiles for the youngsters under their care and enables parents – or any family members – to keep up with their child's learning from anywhere, whether by accessing the profiles through a login or getting updates emailed to their inboxes.
As well as keeping parents in the loop through photos and videos, teachers can link 'learning stories' to individual children or groups, and measure these against Te Whariki, the national early childhood education curriculum.
Parents can also write in their own activities or upload their own media, and see what areas of development their child excels at or may need assistance with.
Packages start from $49 plus GST a month per centre with an initial setup fee of $500.
The idea germinated in 2009 when his daughter entered childcare. Li and his wife felt there was a disconnect between parents and providers and they weren't being kept up to date with her progress.
He realised the concept had the potential to turn into a fully-fledged business, and launched Educa in April 2011. In November, he quit his day job.
Educa is incubated at CreativeHQ and looking to grow. Li says the company is evaluating possibilities overseas "as we speak" and recently signed an exclusive preferred supplier agreement with the New Zealand Early Childhood Council (ECC), the largest such association in the country which counts more than 1000 early childhood centres as members.
Li says he and his one business partner have adopted the lean startup method and operate with the aim of always staying close to customers and soliciting feedback for further development.
"Everything we do increases the value of the business," he says, "instead of the traditional way of hiding in a corner and working on the product for six months."
Li says Educa isn't the only business in this space but its competitors are generally focused on major system management used by just one or two managers for day-to-day operations.
Educa's focus on the communication aspect between teachers and parents sets it apart, and customers like it as it's an out-of-the-box soution that's entirely private – nobody can access any child's information without a secure login.
There are plenty of free systems on the internet such as Google Docs and Blogger, he says, but those are hard to customise for the childcare sector.