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NetInterlink Offers Schools a Way to Stay on Track

By A Weekly Look at the Region's Newest Companies
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2004; Page E05

Parind Raval and Siamak Asgari spent six years working for a variety of technology companies while seeking a niche that would allow them to start their own business. Two years ago, Asgari met a school-system official who mentioned the need for an effective student management system in public schools.

The tech entrepreneurs decided they had found their niche.

Parind Raval and Siamak Asgari say their program provides consistent ways to measure student and school progress. (Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Name: NetInterlink LLC

Location: Washington

Big idea: Develops Web applications that track information about public school students

Founded: July 2003

Web site: www.netinterlink.com

Who's in charge: Parind Raval, chief executive, and Siamak Asgari, vice president

Funding: Mostly by Raval and Asgari, plus a few angel investors.

Employees: The company has 10 employees and is hoping to hire 40 more by the end of next year.

Big-name clients: D.C. Public Schools

Origin of company name: "I knew the Internet would encompass everything and all applications would run across the Internet," Asgari said. "Interlink, link and net were words that would describe what I was thinking."

"Because every school has their own way of doing things, we realized there's no system in place for all these schools to link together and have the same way of keeping track of things," Asgari said. So the partners created one. Their year-old D.C. company, NetInterlink LLC, provides data-management applications to more than 100 public schools.

The program helps schools determine what resources are allocated to each student by tracking which teachers they work with, their grades and standardized test scores, their attendance records, and their financial status, which determines eligibility for subsidized meal programs.

It also helps superintendents monitor big-picture information such as the resources allotted to each of their schools. And the program links student information culled from summer-school and after-school programs with data gathered during the regular academic year.

"What's unique about our application is it was developed alongside teachers who gave us constant user feedback," said Raval, the chief executive.

The Web-based application gives users varying degrees of access. Superintendents, for example, would be able to see all information about every student in their systems, while principals may have access only to details about students attending their schools.

As things are now, "a coordinator at school A has no way to figure out what's going on at school B," said Asgari, who is vice president. "The purpose of our application is to bring all schools together, in real time, and allow every school to track the same thing in the exact same way."

Raval and Asgari believe their program will have a positive impact on the federal No Child Left Behind Act by providing consistent ways of measuring student and schoolwide progress and alerting school administrators to problems as they arise so resources can be reallocated appropriately.

"The problem with the school system now is a backlog and delay," Raval said. "A teacher may identify an issue with a student, but the issue might not be addressed till two or three weeks down the road, which may be too late." NetInterlink's software captures truancy rates and failing grades in real time and makes the data available to teachers and administrators. "Most school systems are using pen and paper to capture this, so the student may fall through the cracks," Raval said.

Asgari and Raval have big plans for their 10-person company. "We want to become a $10 million company in five years," Raval said. "We were awarded the GSA schedule a few weeks ago and that will open up a tremendous space for us." Asgari said they would attempt to market their educational products to military day-care centers and government agencies that offer educational training programs.

Raval says the company is projected to have revenue of $2.2 million this year, compared with $565,000 last year.

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