April 12, 2022

Black CEO Of EdTech Startup Raised $8M To Fund AI-Powered Program To Manage Truancy In K-12 Schools

During Joanna Smith-Griffin’s time at Excel Academy Charter Schools in Boston, working as a student engagement director, she noticed the glaring truancy her school suffered from and became determined to do something about it.

That’s when she realized something seriously needed to be done and she launched ‘All Here. Smith’s company is an edtech curbing chronic absenteeism in K-12 schools with mobile messaging powered by article intelligence (AI).

On the startup’s website, it says: “We foster student success using mobile messaging powered by artificial intelligence. Our AllHere Advisor (AHA) communicates 24/7 via automated two-way texting, proactively sending nudges and drawing upon a customized knowledge base to ensure each family and student receives the right support at the right time.”

It uses evidence-based interventions to help K-12 school districts implement family outreach strategies and keep track of which ones effectively get students to show up. Half of the achievement gap can be traced to absenteeism, according to Smith who spoke to Forbes.

When AllHere launched its first chatbot, schools are said to have embraced the service as they faced a crisis in student attendance and engagement issues related to virtual learning. Using randomized, controlled trial research it has helped schools to reduce chronic absenteeism by 17%, reduce course failures by 38%, and increase student retention.

The number of schools using AllHere grew over 700% in the last year to 8,000 schools across 34 states, helping 2 million students and families across the US.

Smith has raised $12.1 in investment capital to date after AllHere was launched using $5,000 from her savings.

But through her participation in the Harvard Innovation Labs, she met Rethink Education, a VC investing in edtech startups with rigorous pedagogy, strong business models, and a proven product-market fit.

It invested $250,000 in both 2018 and 2019. Rethink introduced Smith to another VC, which invested $100,000 in 2019.

AllHere’s 2021 announcement of an $8 million series A round was led by Spero Ventures. It included previous investors, like Rethink Education, Gratitude Railroad, Potencia Ventures, Boston Impact Initiative, and new investors, including Softbank’s Opportunity Fund, Operator Collective, and Yard Ventures.

Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.