For Fill Education, business is a family affair. Brothers, Harry and Dan O’Malley have created a product using their expertise in math education and software design to improve student's math performance. From standardized tests to daily quizzes, when a student falls behind, the software helps K-12 schools identify students’ learning gaps on a regular basis.
Harry O’Malley founded the company in response to a need he saw in his day job as educator and Director of the Gifted Math Program at the University of Buffalo. The product helps identify students who fail to master a particular skill through an assessment taken at the beginning of class. It then integrates the software into the school's system to identify an available time in the student’s schedule to attend a targeted remediation class the following day, creating a dynamic roster for remediation classes communicated both to students teachers.
Evidence shows the software has an impact, In one sample, schools not using Fill software, the median score on a final exam was 84 percent. In the schools with Fill, the median score was 93 percent on the same final exam. And the average failure rate in schools that did not use Fill was 15 percent, for those who did use fill, this number was cut almost in half.
Fill Education is currently in contact with 15 school districts since their product launched four months ago. Five school districts are piloting the product for the remainder of this school year with the intent to purchase next academic session.
“We have had no funding, besides friends and family funding, which is a really basic amount of money, O’Malley says. “We very luckily had the skill sets to get this product to commercial form.”
O’Malley has extensive experience using the product in his own classroom and is now looking for a third partner that can help take the company to the next level.
"We’re looking for a third partner who really knows how to grow a business,” O’Malley says.
Working with Buffalo-based business support nonprofit Launch NY, Fill Education has been able to formulate and hone their business model while connecting with other entrepreneurs in the area. Al Culliton is Fill Education’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Launch NY. “My experience as a high-school math teacher validated the problem Fill was solving,” he says. “It has been a pleasure to work with people so eager to learn about starting a business and so committed to its success.”
It is clear that entrepreneurial bug has bit the O’Malley brothers.
“It is simultaneously a challenge, but it’s also extremely fulfilling," says O'Malley. "In all of my work, I try to find space for creativity and exploring new territories of possibilities in the field of education. And so this company has provided me with a very personal outlet for that. So I love that aspect of it, but at the same time, adding a company to the plate means you are up late every night trying to do a quality job on all three fronts.”
But for now, it's passion that drives him.
“I am intensely passionate. I wake up every morning and I just wanna get going.”