Abre’s Founding Story

Note: Here’s an abbreviated founding story to Abre.

Our roots are in public education.

Chris Rose and I started our gigs in the classroom (as math and history teachers, respectively). Collectively, we’ve worn many of the hats in education from administrators, to coaches, to CTO/Tech Directors. This helps with empathy and with street cred. Abre truly is a platform created by educators.

Our first meeting was serendipitous, engaging, and (frankly) humorous. We’d love to share it with you over a drink. But to make a long story short, we became somewhat obsessed with why education software was so siloed. Why did so much of it still look like it came out of Geocities circa 1999? Why was it not useful? Why didn’t it actually help students and their communities? Why was it so expensive? Why did it…kind of…suck.

We felt that the market didn’t have an answer. So we created Abre.

I was Hamilton City School District’s technology director at the time and presented the idea to the board. The idea was to create an open-source platform, capable of expanding over time, that served schools. Not only would this platform better serve educators, students, and families, but it would also save the district money.

Why open source? Aside from being a huge proponent of the open-source philosophy (which aligns well with public education), an original aspiration was that other educators would contribute to the platform. In short, a collective and collaborative effort similar to large open-source projects such as WordPress and Moodle.

That did not happen (more on that later).

That said, the board approved the idea. Chris came out of the classroom, and we began the process of designing, developing, and launching Abre.

The First Questions

Controlling the narrative is one of the most important things you can do in education. Understanding that everyone in a school – students, teachers, administrators – turn their devices on at the start of the morning and can see the same screen is a powerful understanding. You can set the narrative.

That’s where Abre started. What should the home screen be? How can you start the narrative? The roots of Abre’s “Hub” began with answering those questions. Pushing out announcements, sending headlines, and centralizing communication.

Early Version of Abre
An Early Version of Abre

Next was a somewhat curious question: Who worked in the district?

Siloes create problems. It is not uncommon for employee lists to exist in a few different locations. For example:

  • Payroll and the treasurer (the most important list!)
  • The Student Information System
  • Active Directory
  • Human Resources
  • The Public Facing Website
  • And more (ie 3rd party applications)

Those systems don’t talk with each other and certainly are not in sync. As the technology director, Zach frequently had challenges in aligning the various data sources.

Which is why the first Abre App was an app called “Directory”. Directory no longer exists. But its progeny, the People App, is one of the platform’s core apps.

On the Importance of Setting

The saying “A solution in search of a problem” can be applied to many software ideas, especially with schools. Too many edtech ideas start with founders without education experience, relying on their ideas of what school is (or was), and how their next great idea will produce rainbows and unicorns. Their intent is admirable. But nothing beats experience.

Abre started in a school district, and the school district had real, pronounced, clear (usually) problems. The superintendent, or the treasurer, or principals, or teachers, or parents, or students could walk into our office and start white-boarding solutions. That foundation – keeping the problems and the solutions real – is displayed throughout the platform. Having a few years to develop in that context is key to Abre’s functional pragmatism.

We think it’s a differentiator within the market. Our customers agree.

What does this mean for you, new colleague and Abre teammate? We would encourage you to always ask:

What is the question you’re trying to answer?

Chris Rose. Every meeting.

Asking this question is key.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts