As a mother of two, Niru Mallavaru recognized a need: She was constantly picking up and dropping off her sons at different activities, but she felt like she was flying blind.
“I'm a parent and I was always working, busy on the treadmill, trying to balance my boys,” she said. “Parents face a lot of day-to-day minutiae. You don't know what's going to come up and you need to have a quick way to address it by talking to the parents.”
Unlike most who recognize a need, she had the background to make her idea a reality.
Mallavaru drew on her 20 years of experience in the technology industry to create MobileArq, a cross-platform mobile app that operates as a contact directory for parents. The app better connects parents not just to one other, but also to their children's school by making the directory available on mobile and desktop devices. It also provides the ability to call, email or text directly through the app.
Two years since the inception of her app, the Summit resident has 30,000 subscribers spread mostly across 40 school districts around the country, she said. And it's growing.
“There has to be an organization with the rest of the parents, and — believe me — there's nothing like that today in a private setting,” Mallavaru said.
As much as Mallavaru approaches MobileArq as an entrepreneur, she also views it as a parent. As such, she's sensitive to the needs and concerns of her target demographic.
One of the major concerns for parents is privacy.
“You want to have a private social network where parents can interact with each other without being seen by the whole world,” she said. “That's what Facebook and other groups don't offer — that privacy.”
The other feature MobileArq offers is the real-time updating of contact information.
And people are taking notice. Last month, Mallavaru completed the 16-week LaunchPad program hosted by the New Jersey technology accelerator TechLaunch. Her company, also called MobileArq, was one of seven this year to receive $25,000 in seed-stage funding, as well as business development training.
The program culminated with “Demo Day,” an event where angel investors are invited to hear the companies' formal pitch.
“We were very honored to be selected,” said Mallavaru, whose experience in the tech sector includes work as an engineering director at Bluenog, a Franklin-based IT services and solutions firm. “I think it's a growing process. Any company at any stage, you need mentoring and you need investors. And you need the perspective of the people who have been there and done that before.”
Two weeks later, she's starting to see the results, but she's also looking for the right fit.
“We're just starting making connections, to get feedback on where we can improve,” she said. “Every company has a certain audience. So we also have to be selective — we can't just take investment from anyone.”
For Mallavaru, the next level means taking MobileArq to the people. She's now looking to increase her marketing platform and take the product directly to the PTA.
“We sell it to PTAs because they are run by parents and it's a much faster sales cycle,” she said. “At the same time, PTAs work hand in hand with the school administration, so they go and get the approval for us.”
The app's adoption by the school district in Westport, Connecticut, last year is an example of this model.
“The superintendent of Westport sent out an email to the whole district that MobileArq was coming on,” she said. “I didn't know the superintendent, I didn't talk with him. But the PTA works with the superintendent. They're not doing it for the (board of education), but for the parents. And they need to work hand-in-hand and collaborate.”
Mallavaru hopes her app will continue to foster that collaboration.
“We need to be in touch all the time with the schools and with the other parents,” she said. “You don't want to be in a situation where you're not in touch or can't be in touch. This is what our software offers.”
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