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RIT student entrepreneurs create CausBuzz pilot to help city school districts
Incentive-based service coordinates family engagement to support children’s learning
“We have low-income students who perform poorly on standardized tests and our highest need is in the inner city schools. We have a social issue; let’s fix it.”
—Erroyl Rolle, CausBuzz CEO
A pilot program called CausBuzz, developed by a team of students at Rochester Institute of Technology, is doing its part to increase parental engagement in the Rochester City School District. The mobile, cloud-based, automated check-in system allows parents to tap into school programming and then receive point incentives for participating in their children’s school activities that can be redeemed at local businesses.
Founder and CEO Erroyl Rolle ’01 (BFA, graphic design), who is pursuing his master’s degree at RIT in human-computer interaction, says CausBuzz was started in 2012 as an entry in the RIT48 competition—where students launch a mobile startup in 48 hours. The initiative was further developed during the 2013 Saunders Summer Start-up program, hosted by RIT’s Saunders College of Business and the Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“We had several mentors who helped us develop our business concept to a point where we could market it to local schools,” says Rolle, who hails from Liberty, N.Y.
One of those mentors was Austin McChord, the 28-year-old CEO of Datto Inc. who graduated from RIT with a degree in bioinformatics in 2009. His company has earned numerous “Best Cloud Solution” awards at ASCII Chicago Success Summit and was ranked the No. 1 fastest growing company in Connecticut and No. 38 overall on the 2012 Inc. 500 list with three-years’ sales growth of 5,554 percent.
McChord is also known for giving back to RIT and offers a robust internship program for students at this company.
“It has been a great experience to connect Erroyl with other relevant entrepreneurs and contacts in the education space,” says McChord. “Helping him focus his passion on such an important cause, and to think critically about his business and ideas, has been really rewarding. I never thought I would get so much out of it.”
According to Rolle, the beta pilot of CausBuzz was jumpstarted at School 52 during their summer reading program—with hopes to have several contracts within the city school district this fall.
“It’s important to help parents get involved in their children’s lives at the most basic level,” says Rolle. “We are in the right place at the right time.”
While local businesses benefit with new customers, the program also creates a Groupon-like scenario for parents who receive free gifts and rewards from merchants for participation.
“It’s like getting frequent-flyer miles for parental engagement,” says Richard Notargiacomo, adjunct professor in Saunders College and mentor/adviser in the Saunders Summer Start-up program.
“CausBuzz is working to improve student outcomes, a known, serious problem in our schools, and there’s much research linking parental involvement to more positive results in their children’s education,” says Notargiacomo.
“With a problem of this magnitude, you’ve just got to go for it. And Erroyl is such an inspiration because he has a much broader vision—he wants to change the world.”