SELmedia, a Cary-based startup focused on education software, is off to a flying start.
The company has signed a contract with the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida. It just happens to be the 11th largest district in the country.
“We validated,” said a smiling Ken Arneson, who joined SELmedia as its chief executive officer in January. “This is a huge validation of the product itself and our business model.”
The SEL in the name refers to social emotional learning.
Arneson left the job as president of LetterMark, which is part of Research Triangle Software in Cary, to run SELmedia. SELmedia is commercializing character education software that was developed by Melissa DeRosier, a child psychologist, at the 3C Institute for Social development in Cary. The institute had received some $10 million in federal grants over several years to develop the software. DeRosier founded the 3C institute in 2001 as well as the 3C Family Services before launching SELmedia in January.
Validation is a big word among startup entrepreneurs and potential investors. If the entrepreneur has a product with major clients, thus providing validation of his or her idea, then venture capital may follow.
The Palm Beach deal is SELmedia’s largest to date, Arneson said. Although he wouldn’t disclose financial details, Arneson said it will generate cash and will help him raise venture capital to grow the company. SELmedia has been funded by angels to date, and Arneson said he is looking for $1 million in venture funding.
SELmedia offers a variety of products and services, including training, with some 30 school districts already signed on as customers.
The Palm Beach schools chose SELmedia’s “LifeStories for Kids” program. It will be used in grades three through five across the district.
“We were attracted to the LifeStories for Kids program because of its use of storytelling,” said Kim Williams, assistant director of the Prevention Center in the School District of Palm Beach County, in a statement. “Kids learn best when they are engaged in the process, especially through the use of sight, sound, motion and emotion.
“The program character education and integrated with language arts other skills,” Williams added. “Teachers get two of their goals accomplished one program so it was very appealing to them.”
SELmedia already has a suite of 10 products with Web tools, curriculum materials, assessment tools, training and online resources. The company also will unveil a professional networking site fin the near future, according to Arneson.
With events such as the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings generating more attention abut violence and bullying at schools, SELmedia is positioning its products to help teachers instruct students about social behavior.
“This is a wonderful mission,” Arneson said. Federal mandates require schools to offer more social instruction and SELmedia wants to help school districts comply, he added. “There’s demand, there’s money and there’s certainly a need.”