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Grades Service Expects to Earn High Marks

Public school is hard enough without the general chaos surrounding the grading process.

With this in mind, a Georgia-based startup called GradesNow.com is providing students, parents and teachers with a place to meet online, streamlining the grading and test products and turning lost, stolen or misplaced grade books into a thing of the past.

"There is not enough interaction between students, teachers and parents," said company founder and president Todd Robinson. "And most schools don't have the time, experience, or hardware to develop a system on their own. It requires a substantial investment."

The service as designed is free, with password-protected access granted to parents, teachers and students. While there will be some advertising support, the main revenue stream will come from parents. Robinson is betting that at least one fourth of all parents will pay about $25 a year for "enhanced service," where they can become more involved with their kids' education and receive an "advanced view" of his or her progress.

Additionally, Robinson said that the company will return a percentage of the service fee back to the districtproviding a much needed new revenue stream that can be used to purchase books or computers.

Currently the company is in the seed stage, existing on investments and private money. In the next few months it will seek an infusion of around $3 million from a VC or angel investor. It projects a user base of 100,000 by the end of this calendar year when it will break even. "After that time we will become profitable," said Robinson.

The system is now in beta test in a Georgia school system. At the end of this period the company will market the system to adjoining districts and grow the system slowly, according to Robinson. They will depend upon word of mouth to gain this momentum, but will do some advertising in educational journals to prime the pump.

From an educator's standpoint, as long as the system is customizable to individual needs it stands a chance of success. "If any one system becomes a standard for schools, we would definitely consider it," said Chuck White, personnel and curriculum director for the Silver Falls School District in Silverton, Ore. "Every school system can't have a Webmaster. But this is something the school district will want to maintain control over. We also have laws about information and privacy which we will have to follow."

As for the "computer gap," Robinson says the gulf between haves and have nots isn't quite as drastic as many people believe. Even if a student doesn't have access to the Internet from home, he adds, any district that employs this system will always provide a place to log on in the library or in the classroom.

In a Nutshell:

Company Name: GradesNow.com Inc.
Address: 2112 Dunwoody Gables Dr. Dunwoody, Ga. 30328
Phone: (770) 604-9804
Fax: (770) 234-6638
Contact e-mail address: todd@gradesnow.com
Web address: http://gradesnow.com
Total Funding: $60,000
Investors: Todd Robinson, David Sandor and Mark Cochran

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