Our Investment in Kinvolved — An Interview with founders Miriam Altman and Alexandra Meis
Kinvolved’s work to improve student outcomes furthers one of our core themes at Notation Capital — investing in the rapidly evolving education landscape. Founded by Miriam Altman and Alexandra Meis, Kinvolved is on a mission to improve graduation rates for secondary education, initially by focusing on a simple but crucial factor: attendance. In fact, attendance is so important that many school budgets directly depend on student attendance and graduation rates. The company is already having an outsized impact, operating in over 100 schools around the country and was recently featured in the New York Times. We’re fascinated by their vision for how school attendance and communication should work, as well as their pragmatic approach, and so we’re thrilled to formally announce our partnership with the team at Kinvolved. We spoke with Miriam about the company.
What is Kinvolved’s mission?
Kinvolved is increasing graduation rates by improving preK-12 student attendance through positive family engagement.
Kinvolved is the student attendance headquarters for schools, districts, and community-based organizations. Kinvolved’s mobile and web apps help clients bring simple attendance data to life, and to engage families through text messaging to inform constructive interventions that elevate attendance and engender positive academic outcomes.
What are the key moments in your life that led you to start this company now?
I was a teacher in a NYC high school and noticed absenteeism was a huge problem from the first day I stood in front of my students. I realized that parents, an essential partner to help get kids to class, were often uninformed of their children’s attendance or absence for six weeks or longer after the absence occurred. When parents were informed, I saw immediate improvements in attendance and academic performance, but didn’t have the tools at the time to communicate this critical information to parents in large volumes.
Alex was a parent advocate at a South Bronx hospital, where she supported parents of children with Autism. She saw firsthand that parents in this underserved community lacked basic information to help them support their children in school and ensure they received the appropriate and mandated Special Education services. By giving parents information in languages they could read and at the appropriate literacy levels, they were empowered to advocate for their children within the Dept. of Education.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about founding a company?
Starting a company requires patience, humility, flexibility, and most importantly, persistence. We try to keep in mind, however, that the toughest day on the job for us is not nearly as tough as a typical day for many of the teachers, principals, parents, and students we support. To see the actual impact we’re having on our customers and beneficiaries make the challenges worth it.
Who is the founding team and how did you meet?
Alex and I met while graduate students at NYU Wagner studying public policy. Having come from previous careers working within the communities that Kinvolved now serves, we hit it off instantly, recognizing our shared passion for social change in education and low income communities. We started Kinvolved by entering and winning the Fels Institute Public Policy Challenge at U Penn, and won a grant to build and test a pilot of the app and support services model at PS125 in Harlem.
How did you think about and choose your investors?
We raised an initial round of seed funding from friends and family early on, which was supplemented by grants and awards from institutions including Teach For America, The Robin Hood Foundation, The Blue Ridge Foundation, NYU, Penn, and others. Last summer, we were able to gain momentum in our seed round after two early stage funds, the NYU Innovation Venture Fund and Notation Capital, committed to our round. To have these funds in on the round was critical, as it persuaded other funds and angels to join. We look for institutional investors and angels with a track record of productively supporting entrepreneurs. In that sense, we do our own diligence, calling other entrepreneurs to get references on investors before we accept their funds.