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How an Immigrant CEO and Father Built a Company to Connect Parents with Their Children’s Schools

chaks-bloomz-top How an Immigrant CEO and Father Built a Company to Connect Parents with Their Children’s SchoolsBy Chaks Appalabattula
CEO/Founder of Bloomz

Life is busy. We are all working hard to make a better life and provide for our families in the best way we know how. Each of us wants our children to have a better life than we’ve had, so we work hard to give them every opportunity we can. Each of us wants to provide our kids with the best possible education and make sure that they make the most of that opportunity. And in fact, studies have shown that parents’ involvement in their child’s education is one of the most important factors in students’ success. As a CEO and father, I know how difficult it can be to balance these two roles, both of which help to provide necessary support to my children.

A few years back, my wife and I started both of our children in new schools, and we had very little familiarity with either of the school communities. Then, things got more complicated. I was diagnosed with a rare form of idiopathic hypertrophic cranial pachymeningitis (IHCP), causing double vision, preventing me from driving, and forcing me to stay home for six months. During that time, my wife also fell ill, making things even more difficult when it came to parenting. We needed to figure out a way to send our kids to school while we recovered, but we didn’t know any of the parents at either school, nor did we have a way to contact any of them. Even if we had had a way to contact them, asking someone you’ve never met to drop your kids at school would have been awkward and risky.

These events left us feeling isolated and shut out from the community, much like we had when first immigrating to this country. A child’s school is one community parents interact with most, and a strong relationship with their child’s teacher helps kids succeed. But if these parents can’t easily communicate with the members of this community (for any number of reasons), it makes it much harder to support their child’s education. It got me thinking about how technology can help bridge this gap, and help all parents ensure their child is getting the best education possible.

This led me to create Bloomz. My goal was for Bloomz to be a secure and private, no-cost, one-stop-shop for all parent-school communication needs, so that no parent would ever have to feel as isolated from their school community as I did when my wife and I were sick. Coming from an immigrant background, I knew we needed to make sure the app was inclusive of all parents. Thus, an automatic language translator was one of the first things we built, to connect immigrant families with their child’s educators and allow them to become a part of that community.

Overcoming an Immigrant’s Isolation

I grew up in the Southern part of India and completed my Engineering degree there. I took classes in my native language of Telugu till high school, but I learned English for the first time when I went into engineering college back in India. I came to the United States to work for Microsoft when they were looking for someone from India to program manage the Microsoft Office release for South Asian languages. I worked with people from all over the world during my first tenure at Microsoft, and working together with people from all these different cultures convinced me of the value that we gain from a diverse community. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts.

As an immigrant to the US, everything was completely new to me: the language, the culture, and even the accents. Learning how to understand an American accent was difficult, and I had to take American accent classes to thin my own accent a little. Even now I notice a discernable difference between the way I speak and my kids’ speaking habits and accents. In 2003 I got married, and my wife had an even bigger culture shock. She had lived with her parents until she got married, so she was not only moving out of her country, but out of the only home she had ever known, and into a completely new culture.

When you come from a different culture and language, your natural inclination is to go back to your comfort zone, find people like yourself, and stick to what you know. Technology, such as the ability to interact with others from the safety of your cell phone, can help expose you to other cultures and ways of thinking that you otherwise wouldn’t engage with. For instance, in Indian schools, extracurricular activities are not expected because everyone is so focused on academics, leaving little time for play. By connecting with other American parents, I discovered that there are so many other opportunities—like scouts, sports, and theater—for my kids to become part of a community and learn valuable lessons, too.

Bringing a Fresh Perspective to School and Business

Every culture has a different perspective that can improve a school or company culture. For instance, in India there’s emphasis on the spiritual side of life. This gives a higher purpose to everything we do. The United States is a society that values seizing every opportunity, and constant innovation. When you bring these two cultures together, they balance each other and create a stronger company, that can excel in the capitalistic space while also having a higher purpose to influence and impact the lives of your customers.

This is especially valuable in ed tech. In our industry, every task we complete can have a positive impact on society, and you can feel that power at the end of the day. You come home happy that you made a difference. This is what drives us at Bloomz. It has carried us through this far, past challenges and setbacks. Recently, we reached over 1.8 million users (teachers and parents) in more than 24,000 schools embracing Bloomz with rapid word of mouth. Our mission is to give each and every parent the power to support their child’s education, no matter the state of their health, their busy schedule, their native language, or their country of origin.

Chaks Appalabattula is the founder and CEO of Bloomz, which recently won the 2017 Tech Edvocate award for Best Parent-Teacher/School Communication App. Follow him on Twitter: @achaks.