Before the idea of co-founding the EdTech startup, Integrate Tech Inc., was hatched in 2014, Kevin Celisca was just a young accountant of Haitian descent at Ernst and Young with a passion to be successful in life and make more money for his family.
Graduating from the Fairleigh Dickinson University-College in New Jersey was very pivotal for Celisca who became the first person from his family to attain that level of education and to become an accountant with a developed interest in entrepreneurship.
Studying in London, Italy and China during college introduced him to entrepreneurship and shaped his goal in life which was to help improve people’s lives.
Integrate Tech Inc. was born after Celisca met his college friend and now business partner, Maxwell Witt, while he was working at Ernst and Young in 2014. Already fed up with his desk job, Celiscawas inspired by Witt’s ideas and the most striking was Integrate School software which was designed to give students the special attention they needed in and out of school.
Integrate School is an all-in-one school software that helps teachers manage the classroom and students to stay organized without distractions. It also gives administrators and parents feedback on the performance of students.
“What Integrate does is instead of using four to five different softwares to run a digital environment, everything you need will be in one software, one login that understands who you are based on the user login. The software knows if you are an admin, teacher or student,” Celisca explains how the software works.
He told Face2Face Africa in an interview that the software gives administrators real-time data on teacher and student performance for swift action and it helps teachers to record attendance using geofencing while it eliminates distraction from the classroom by placing the students in a digital environment.
The software basically blocks other websites and only focuses on the class work when classes begin. It also does automatic grading and teaches students to be organized by updating them on the school calendar and activities.
Integrate School is being privately tested in five schools in the United States and it will be expanded to 25 schools when it goes public in the 2019/ 2020 academic school year, reveals Celisca.
He explained that his attachment to the software was as a result of the special attention he received from his fourth grade teacher, Miss Brady (the only name he recalls), who had an impact in his life while growing up in Irvington, New Jersey.
“I was struggling because I was in a failing community … I was fortunate enough living in a single-parent household that my teacher in the fourth grade was willing to give me that special attention and extra help I needed every day after school for free, to help me learn how I learn best,” he said about the Asian teacher.
Kevin Celisca had other inspirational figures in his life who spurred him on to be where he is now. He spoke fondly about his grandmother, Mary Pierre, who raised him until she passed away when he was 19 years old.
“My family is from Haiti and I was one of the first people in my family to be born in America. All my family emigrated here … I was fortunate enough to live with my grandma who gave me an understanding of what it takes to sacrifice.
“She told me that when she was growing up in Haiti, she suffered a lot and she had no education. She started her business in Haiti at the age of 18 … She had seven kids and sent them all to America. She told me: ‘You have no excuse. I paved the way for you. I sacrificed and all seven kids are in America. I thought about the future. You need to have a vision to pull you no matter how tough life will get’,” he added.
He couldn’t hide his love for reading books which he developed after college. He said the Paulo Coelho novel, The Alchemist, gave him a structure for life. “Since 2014, I’ve read over 200 books. I became addicted … A constant education by reading books will expand your mind and give you perspectives and foresight you will never know.”
The multilingual entrepreneur who speaks Haitian Creole and Italian is also the project manager of the startup which started in 2015. It gave birth to the Integrate School software which came about after a year of market research.
“Even though you have an idea, you have to make sure your idea is validated … We talked to everybody and they all said the same thing: ‘There were too many softwares and students get distracted’,” he told Face2Face Africa.
“We didn’t have a teaching background. But what we did have was we took education and used our business approach on solving a problem. When we realized there was a problem after one year, we did create a teacher board.
“When we had the board together, we created a technology team to conceive the idea. While we were developing the software, we had the teachers to get involved in the process, so this software is a community effort with multiple perspective,” he added.
Integrate Tech Inc. has a team of eight employees and has secured $160,000 funding from family and friends ($40,000), a philanthropist ($100,000) and Google which gave $20,000 in December 2018 as part of its investment program for startups. Continue reading