Mr Jay Kimmelman
Co-Founder and CEO, Bridge International Academies, Kenya
Interview by Miriam Mukasa, founder and MD, AfricaTalentbank.com
|Each month, we put a different organisation, under the spotlight. This month, we interview Mr Jay Kimmelman, the Harvard educated co-founder and CEO of Bridge International Academies - a chain of low cost private schools, offering high quality education using technology and local talent. Kenya is the first place where this business model has been tried.
Inside a Bridge International Academies class.
Mr Jay Kimmelman is a successful entrepreneur and passionate advocate for issues related to global poverty. Prior to founding Bridge International Academies, Jay was founder and CEO of Edusoft, the leading educational software company providing assessment platforms to US public school districts. Jay led the company from inception in a San Francisco apartment to national success providing critical services to millions of students, forming groundbreaking partnerships, and establishing the company as the recognized leader in the market. Jay sold the 150-person, $20M revenue company to Boston-based publishing company Houghton Mifflin in 2003. At that time, Edusoft was serving more than 3 Million students in 400 school districts across the nation, including the second largest in the country. Jay received his B.A. in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Harvard University
Mr Kimmelman, thank you for granting ATB News this interview. May I start by asking, how did Bridge International Academies (BIA) come about and why Kenya specifically?
Bridge International Academies was conceived in 2007 out of the belief that giving every child access to a high quality education would have the greatest impact on reducing poverty worldwide. With that guiding insight, Bridge International developed a strategy that would enable it to launch a large-scale network of high-quality, ultra low-cost, for-profit primary schools. Operating a network of schools supported by a strong central headquarter gives Bridge International the scale, experience, and capacity to invest in systems of management, support, training, and innovation that allows individual schools to dramatically increase their effectiveness.
We started our operations in Kenya for the following reasons: Kenya is one of the leading countries in Africa driving innovation which in itself, is conducive to our business model succeeding; parents in Kenya were desperately looking for good quality education at affordable prices; the welcome climate that the country offers; Kenya's openness to new and innovative ideas; and of course, the friendliness of the Kenyan people.
So your schools specifically target the "bottom of the pyramid" sector of the population. Is this correct?
How many schools do you currently operate?
Describe your business model and teaching methods.
Lessons are fully scripted, word for word, based on the best research in the world and data collected from all over Kenya, so no matter where the child comes from, they are able to understand. Tuition is paid for using mPesa, with fees averaging Ksh 400 per month.
(1) Business Model - Namely our "Academy-in-a-box" business model, as mentioned above.
(2) Quality Education at affordable Prices - Bridge International Academies is able to profitably deliver high-quality education for 400 shillings per child, per month. This ensures our academies will continue to successfully serve local communities as long as parents value the educational service provided.
(3) Scalability - Through rapid and strategic expansion, Bridge International expects to enroll over 10 million pupils across the globe in the coming years.
|(4) Extensive use of technology - Academy Managers run the entire academy operation on a custom-developed smartphone application connected in real time to our headquarters systems. Instructional materials are delivered to thousands of teachers all over the country in real-time using customer developed tablet software in the hands of every teacher. Data is continuously monitored to enable data-driven decision making at the academy and headquarters levels.
In addition, our pupils receive more individual attention, are offered lunch at school, our teachers are from the local community and so they live and work amongst the students and we also have performance metrics by which we assess teachers.
In terms of rolling out, are you looking to roll out BIA into neighbouring countries and beyond?
Yes we are looking to roll out into other African countries as well as around the world including India. Global expansion is on the horizon for 2013, but the adventure begins here in Kenya!
You are now looking for graduates for various positions at Bridge International Academies. Which vacancies are you looking to fill and what attributes are you looking for in your graduate recruits?
Curriculum Authors – We’re looking for the best and brightest graduates with incredible writing (English) skills who are detailed, conscientious with experience or passion for education, to join our curriculum team. These authors will work with top Kenyan and International educators to design education materials delivered at each of Bridge’s 135 academies, and write lessons that deliver world class education to children in some of the nation’s poorest communities.
Academy Improvement Managers – We’re also looking for a small number of dynamic, articulate and mature graduates to be responsible for managing and supervising an entire territory of Bridge International Academies.
Academy Improvement Managers work closely with a large group of Academies in a specific geography to ensure that the Academies are operating at the highest levels across operations, instruction and finance. This role requires a constant presence at the Academies and close interaction with each Academy Manager, as well as Academy Teachers, to ensure that there is continuous bi-directional communication and coaching. Academy Improvement Managers completely own (and therefore are accountable for) the performance metrics of all of the Academies in their territory, as measured by financial, operational and instructional benchmarks.
Research Associates – We’re looking for talented, research-minded recent graduates to join our Market Research team which conducts research, provide critical analysis, insight, reports and data to the rest of the company on socio-economic conditions, competitive landscapes, plot-specific research and population density in all of our potential communities. Research Associates are at the core of our data-driven, community-based approach to site selection and operations. Experience in conducting field research in, or comfort with, slums and informal settlements is a plus!
Junior Software Engineer - We are looking for a bright Junior Software Engineer to work under the supervision of the Team Lead. His/her responsibilities will include: Designing, implementation and debugging of custom enterprise software to power and improve the efficiency of our rigorous processes at both our schools and headquarters, working closely with the Team Leader in order to understand the functional and system requirements, working closely with the QA team in the testing process through unit testing and bug fixes to ensure the quality of the systems being developed, supporting in-house users of our custom software and problem solving and providing second line support to end users of systems that have been deployed to support our business operations and integration of our custom systems with off the shelf software.
Other Job Openings – In the last 4 years, we’ve grown our company from 3 to almost 1,200 employees. We’re hiring in a lot of areas, including Technology, Procurement, Construction, Supply Chain, Operations, Finance and more. We’re looking for the country’s top graduates to join one of the most exciting companies in Kenya!
What are your plans for 2013?
Any parting message to ATB Members?
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Miriam Mukasa is founder and MD of AfricaTalentbank.com (ATB), an e-Recruitment/Talent Management company that utilises web, mobile applications and social media to modernise and enhance graduate recruitment in Africa - starting in Kenya. Miriam has over ten years HR experience, having worked in recruitment at the Institute of Cancer Research, UK - one of the world’s leading cancer research organisations (rated top in Europe). Miriam also trains members of staff (including departmental heads) of various multinationals including: Siemens, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and GKN plc - the global engineering group. See also link to Miriam's Biography and this link for Blogs by Miriam