Posted by Ramona Pierson 
Founder, Chairman and Chief Science Officer, SynapticMash, Inc.

How can schools make sure that education dollars are working? That’s one of the big challenges that my company, SynapticMash, works to help answer, by empowering educators to make better-informed decisions using our learning management systems and programs. We’re driving big change in education and, in the process, expecting to spawn a lot of new jobs and opportunities in the education sector.

We’re therefore a good example of how partnering with Microsoft benefits many small and medium-sized technology businesses and benefits the economy overall, as described in a new global study of the economic impact of information technology. The study was commissioned by Microsoft and released last week by the research firm IDC. I can attest to the reality behind the numbers as founder of one of the 700,000 firms in the Microsoft ecosystem.

One of our challenges when we started up in 2007 was getting access to the technology tools and support we needed to grow, without spending all of our precious funding dollars. Fortunately, we became a Microsoft Startup Accelerator company, which gives us access to the software, services and business exposure we need to help us to scale up quickly and cost effectively.

 

We originally developed our prototype in an open source language, but soon came across obstacles, which led us to switch to the Microsoft suite of enterprise tools for software development. As an Accelerator company and Microsoft BizSpark partner, we were able to leverage free MSDN and software licenses that helped us get our products to market about a year sooner than we had expected. Now, we’re particularly excited about Windows Azure for the potential to support global education in the cloud, which will make it easy and affordable for our partners to work with us.

Since we switched to .NET and Microsoft SQL, we’ve won some very exciting projects, such as with the Cambridge School District, which was seeking an innovative approach to data warehousing and education management systems built on SQL tools. We surprised the industry by winning the Cambridge RFP against larger and more mature companies such as IBM.

Initially, Cambridge brought us in to integrate their disparate data systems, as they had struggled for seven years to get reports out of their legacy data warehouse. Within four hours, we had all of their student information integrated into our data warehouse, and we provided them a vast number of reports that they had never before been able to produce in less than two weeks.

Cambridge then asked us to provide them a transformational solution to extend learning opportunities beyond school buildings to students throughout the city via our proprietary social network. And they’ve expressed interest in purchasing the rest of our products, which include a student information system, curriculum management system, gradebook, and our assessment modules.

Because of our unique platform design, we’re able to help districts to sunset their legacy systems rapidly and reduce their licensing and maintenance costs on LearningQube, our end-to-end learning management platform.

In this way and with Microsoft’s aid, we’re helping improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education, which contributes to productivity and economic growth—and helps young people realize their dreams.