When Özlem Turhan enters the stage in New York tonight to receive the Stevie Award for the Best New Product or Service of the Year – Consumer Services she will think back on how this all started just a little over a year ago.
In the summer of 2014 Özlem Turhan decided to leave her position as co-CEO of Workcube, a very successful software company she had founded with her husband in 2001. Working side by side with her husband was becoming increasingly difficult and after a heated discussion over some organizational issues at the company, Özlem decided it was time to move on.
The Teacher-Parent-Student triangle
With her head free from obligations at Workcube she started scanning her surroundings for areas that could be improved with information technology. She wanted to start a web based business where she could reach and serve millions of users all over the world without making massive investments or building a large and dispersed organization. Being an experienced mother of three children aged 3, 9 and 14 she very soon came across an area where she saw that web based information technology could make a huge difference: The Teacher-Parent-Student triangle.
With happy parents and teachers come happy students.
From the perspective of a parent, education is about giving your children the best possible foundation for a happy life. Özlem knew from her own experience that meeting this objective requires the Teacher-Parent-Student triangle to work smoothly and that seamless and ongoing communication is the main ingredient. With strong relationships in the triangle, problems can be swiftly identified and solved, and with positive parent engagement student learning seems to happen almost automatically. With happy parents and teachers come happy students.
She also saw how cumbersome it was for teachers, parents and students to communicate with the tools they have available today. This gave her the idea that now has materialized into Classloom.com – a free internet “social media” collaboration service for teachers, parents and students.
A new product in just four months
Zafer Altun, a software developer from her husband’s company, offered to do the development in his free time and together Zafer and Özlem designed and developed the first beta version of the platform in just four months. Then she invited friends and friends of friends to test the beta version and report their observations back to her. The ideas of the Zafer Altun and the feedback from the users resulted in major changes to the platform.
Launch – and then what?
When Özlem launched Classloom.com in April 2015 just a few months before the summer break she didn’t expect much traffic. She thought that teachers were busy wrapping up the year and wouldn’t have time to study a new Teacher-Parent-Student communication tool until after the summer break, but fortunately she was wrong.
To be continued…
I am following Özlem’s Classloom.com project and will write about how the business develops, about the challenges she is facing and how she solves them.