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Impact on education

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  • | 10:34 p.m. July 1, 2010
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As a child, Adam Hall used to run around education conferences his father took him to all around the country.

But as he grew older, a career on Wall Street beckoned. Hall earned an economics degree at Columbia University and after graduation went to work as an institutional broker at JP Morgan.

As is so often the case, Wall Street turns out to be a different place than many imagine. “It wasn't fulfilling at all for me,” says Hall, 34.

So the Fort Myers native left the finance world in 2000 and returned to his hometown and a familiar business to start Impact Education, which provides educational software and consulting services to K-12 students. He started the business with his father, Leonard Hall, a former Missouri state director of special education. The elder Hall had built an education software company called SkillsBank and sold it to The Learning Company in 1997 before retiring.

The year Hall started Impact Education turned out to be the peak of the dotcom era. “The best thing that happened to us was the dotcom bust because we had a flawed business model,” Hall acknowledges. “Fortunately, we hadn't gone down the path of no return.”

Initially, the idea was to resell educational software via the Internet. But Hall quickly realized that school systems don't buy goods and services like companies. Instead, they buy from people that administrators and school board officials know. “Schools are not equipped for B-to-B commerce,” says the younger Hall, the CEO of Impact Education.

Their break came in 2001, when Arkansas' special-education department decided to pilot software in a juvenile-detention facility. Impact Education licenses software owned by publishing giant Houghton Mifflin and provides consulting and monitoring.

But the tests were so successful that 300 schools now use Impact Education's program, one-third of those in Arkansas. School principals adopted the program after they found that students returning from the juvenile centers were academically well prepared in reading and math.

Impact Education charges an annual subscription fee that ranges from $8,000 to $15,000 per school, depending on the size of the school and the modules they choose. “We monitor the data daily,” Hall says. That's because school districts need this information because the federal government requires this data for funding.

Hall says Impact Education has been profitable since 2004 and he expects $5 million in revenues this year, up 11% from $4.5 million in 2009. Those projections could change if the company lands a federal grant for 15 educational cooperatives. “If we get it, it'll launch us into the stratosphere,” says the 6'4” Hall, who played defensive end on the Columbia football team.


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