Fri09192014

Business & Real Estate

Education through collaboration: LAHS grad helps local startup revolutionize teaching industry


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Hamel

A recent Los Altos High School graduate is part of a Palo Alto-based Internet startup that plans to revolutionize the education industry.

Los Altos resident Jordan Hamel, 19, is the marketing and social-media guru for Claco.com, an online education community that seeks to empower educators across the globe to deliver more stimulating content to students.

The website caters to and encourages teacher interaction, allowing instructors from across the nation – and the world – to exchange ideas, concepts and methods.

“Individual teachers decide if they want to use it,” Hamel said. “You can use it as a supplement to your school’s learning management system. You don’t keep track of grades on here, you don’t have a calendar. It’s all your lesson plans and how I can make this lesson the most interesting I can tomorrow in class.”

Hamel reached out to Claco last spring after a frustrating freshman year at UCLA. She realized that she wasn’t disenchanted with learning itself, but with the presentation.

“I did not really enjoy my first year of school at UCLA, and I couldn’t figure out why,” she said. “It was mostly based on the classes and the way they delivered education.”

Hamel’s frustrations mirrored those of Claco CEO Eric Simons, who gained Internet fame for secretly living at AOL’s headquarters for two months when he was low on cash.

After some back-and-forth, Simons extended an invitation to Hamel to join the company. Now Hamel is taking a year off from her studies to work alongside the company’s five other employees.

Claco launched in spring 2012 and quickly gained success. Within four weeks, 16,000 teachers were on the site; by the end of summer, 100,000 students and parents discovered Claco as well. Hamel said teachers were excited to help Claco go viral.

“Teachers – although you’d think they’re still stuck in their classroom – are really big on Twitter and blogging,” she said. “It’s really been grassroots so far.”

The success of the initial release – and the addition of a few more employees – prompted Simons to develop a new, upgraded version of the site. Claco has scheduled its beta release soon and already has approximately 5,000 users lined up.

Like the site’s first version, the new beta will be free for educators and students. Venture capital funds currently support Claco, and Hamel said the company is still in the process of settling on a long-term revenue strategy.

“A few possibilities are teacher subscriptions or premium content, but we’re really not settled on anything yet,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hamel and the rest of the Claco crew focus on raising awareness and driving traffic to the site with an eye to becoming a force both domestically and internationally.

“Ultimately, we’d like this to be a fully functioning international collaborative workplace for educators,” she said. “How cool would it be if you taught in California and (you were able to collaborate with) someone from Uganda?”

For more information, visit www.claco.com.

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