By Riley Kaminer
Education has always been a top priority for Giovanni Estrada. “It started with my upbringing,” he told Refresh Miami. “My mother only had a fifth grade education, and being a single mother raising three kids in the projects was very difficult. My mom made sure that we were engaged, with school and after school activities – and that we avoided any negativity growing up.”
Estrada would go on to become a teacher in places as far-flung as Nairobi and Milwalkee before going to grad school to study electrical engineering. It was during grad school that Estrada flunked an exam. “I wished that I could streamline academics and non-academics,” he said, underscoring the difficulty of balancing both his life inside the classroom and outside. Learning Management Systems worked decently well for the former but were effectively useless for the latter.
A seed was planted in Estrada’s mind that would eventually grow years later, after a stint working in sales and engineering in California and, eventually, Florida. Now based in Boca Raton, in 2019 Estrada began to build a digital solution to the problem he faced as a student: balancing his academic and non-academic lives.
Estrada’s platform is called Flo-Ops. The goal? To improve a student’s academic performance by integrating their social and academic lives into a single digital platform. Estrada [pictured above] explained that Flo-Ops does not aim to replace existing Learning Management Systems or System Information Systems, but rather bolt on top of them and provide additional functionality.
“By integrating using APIs, we are able to extract rosters, assignments, projects, quizzes – and then non-academic stuff like clubs, sports, arts, and nonprofits, which are self-generated through our dashboard,” said Estrada. Flo-Ops’ app, which was launched in July 2020, then shows everything in one view. It also has functionality for group chats, which can be useful for things like meeting minutes from a club or class notes. All the while, institutions can keep a tab on those conversations, monitoring language for bullying.
Flo-Ops is working to leverage artificial intelligence to further personalize the experience for students by better understanding their individual needs. Gamification will also soon become an important feature of the platform, keeping users engaged with the platform.
Up to now Flo-Ops has been focused on selling to secondary and higher education institutions, with a primary focus on private and charter schools. Estrada shared that there are 20 active Flo-Ops pilots at the moment, with a further 200 schools in the pipeline. Currently, 5,000 people actively use the platform. Going forward, Estrada signaled that another potential revenue stream could be partnering with nonprofits, who can leverage Flo-Ops as a white labeled platform.
Flo-Ops has achieved all this growth with a team of 12 employees. The bootstrapped company has plans to raise a $750,000 pre-seed to go towards product development, customer acquisition, and team expansion.
South Florida has played an important role in Flo-Ops’ growth. They have been a part of a wide range of local accelerators, including EndeavorLAB, NSU’s Levan Center, and FAU Tech Runway.
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