With recent school shootings and other tragedies elevating concerns about the safety of students in schools, a Tampa company – through its use of technology -- is positioned to help make a difference.
Founded in 2015 after a mistake in a school pickup line resulted in retrieving the wrong child, PikMyKid is gaining attention as a problem solver. Its founders are headed for San Francisco to participate as a finalist in an international software-and-information-industry competition June 13.
“We’ve always been seen as a startup so far,” says Chitra Kanagaraj, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer. “This is the award that is beyond startup.”
The company was named a finalist in the 2018 SIIA CODiE Award contest, Best Emerging Education Technology Solution for Administrators category, after virtual presentations. It was one of 152 finalists in 39 education technology categories.
PikMyKid, which now operates in public and private schools in 27 states, began rolling out a school-safety training program in Florida this month. That follows the release of its panic-button alert system being offered free while schools test the program and plan next year’s budget. The company's goal is to get initial responders to schools faster when there are intruders.
“We are giving schools one product that they can just focus on if there is a safety issue,” Kanagaraj says.
The company got off the ground with help from the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator at USF Connect and the Startup Scholars at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Now part of the Tampa Bay WAVE program, it also works with the TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg.
The mixup that inspired the company occurred when her husband, Pat Bhava, now Co-Founder and CEO of PikMyKid, went to pick up their fifth-grader and ended up with another girl in the backseat. The error was swiftly corrected, but it did trigger concern.
“It was really something we could change, rather than blaming the school or blaming ourselves,” she says.
When teachers are standing in the sun after a full day of class, facing a line of cars, things may not always go as planned. “It’s not their intent to mess up, but it does happen,” she says.
The app, licensed for use by the school or school district, is downloaded free by parents. It facilitates the pickup process by consolidating pickup changes and authorizations, improving safety and saving staff time.
Through a dashboard, parents have real-time communication with the school and are alerted as soon as the child leaves campus. “If there is anything wrong, the parents are able to fix the issue immediately,” she says.
PikMyKid, located at 5115 Memorial Highway, currently employs 10 and some part-time consultants. But it expects to add another four employees during its peak time in July and August, as schools gear up for the 2018-19 year. They are hoping to keep these full-time.
Company officials are looking for people with teaching backgrounds to work in customer service. “We think we’re competitive with what they’re getting from the public school system,” she says.
Read on for more news about Tampa Bay’s tech scene.
• Monikl, which works similar to a dating service for jobseekers, has received a $25,000 Bizpark Grant from Microsoft and a Google Cloud for Startups Grant of $20,000, says spokesman Zachary Wright. The 1-year-old company now has some 25,000 active job candidates in its system. The company uses an algorithm to assess experience, skills, workplace preferences and personality.
• Join Working Women of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay WAVE for a morning of networking Wednesday, May 23. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. It’s followed by 1 Million Cups of Coffee, which is featuring two women-owned businesses as presenters.
• Homebrew Hillsborough, a networking group for techies and entrepreneurs in Hillsborough County, will be meeting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 25, at SecureSet Tampa Campus, 1403 E 9th Ave., Tampa. The group will be touring SecureSet, which offers comprehensive training for those interested in careers in cybersecurity. Sign up online.
• The Clearwater-based Digital Media Solutions, a digital marketing company, has acquired Avenue100 Media Solutions, LLC, a specialist in performance-based marketing and analytics in education. Avenue100 Media Solutions will join DMS’s education division, but operate as a separate subsidiary based in Massachusetts. DMS, which provides end-to-end customer acquisition solutions, has been recognized as one of America’s “Best Places to Work” in 2017 by Inc. magazine.
• TeamWerx, a platform designed to find innovative solutions to warfighter problems, has announced two challenges with cash prizes totaling $25,000. The submission deadline is Thursday, May 31, for help expanding the TeamWerx ecosystem, with a $2,000 prize. The deadline is Saturday, June 30, to enter a contest to figure out how to retrieve data from mobile locations using a mobile device but without revealing the locations of sensors. That prize is $23,000. Learn more.
• Florida Polytechnic University graduated its first class of 220 May 4 in Lakeland. The group included most of the students who enrolled when the university opened in fall 2014. Dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math, Florida Polytechnic is located on Interstate 4’s high-tech corridor between Tampa and Orlando.
The university’s robotics team, Purple Fire, earned the Judges Award recently at the VEX Robotics World Championship. The team of eight students won half of its matches and ranked 22nd internationally out of 45 teams.
And Florida Poly is attracting attention in Mexico for its bookless, digital library. The university’s Vice Provost of Academic Support Services, Dr. Kathryn Miller, was a guest speaker at the first International Colloquium on Library Architecture and Environments, hosted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico earlier this month.