Nikhil, left, and Jag Vootkur. Photo by Christine Carignan
The college application process usually triggers a family-wide scavenger hunt for every award, certificate and trophy hiding around the house. Jag Vootkur thought about how to better organize these accomplishments as he drove his son Nikhil home from a second place win at an anti-bullying poster contest. Last year he founded KudosWall in Nashua as a way to store all of junior's achievements in one place. Basically, the site is a LinkedIn for students K-12.
Vootkur moved to the U.S. from India and settled in Nashua in 1998 to start a career in software development. He began brainstorming for KudosWall while working at Pegasystems, a business app developer in Bedford, and by June of 2015 was working part time to develop the initial platform.
Four months later, Vootkur left the company to work full time as CEO of KudosWall, which launched in June 2016 and has grown to include an eight-person development team based in India with one full-time technical lead and seven contract engineers. Stateside, KudosWall’s staff includes Vootkur, his son Nikhil, a web and mobile designer and a part-time blogger.
“Kids do a lot of different things these days, from sports to arts to STEM activities,” says Vootkur. “But they’re doing these things for fun and aren’t thinking of keeping track of it all. Each student has their own mixture of talents, and their resume should speak to all of them.”
KudosWall allows users to break up their profile to reflect these different talents and interests, including sections for academics, the arts, community service and sports. Users can post write ups of individual activities and achievements, or upload photos or scans of awards they have received.
Vootkur says the platform is focused on engaging parents, with the idea that they’ll update their child’s profile and turn it over once they feel their child is ready to take it on themselves. He’s been promoting KudosWall to parents though the Boys & Girls Club of Nashua and the Academy for Science and Design in Nashua, where his son Nikhil attends eighth grade.
Vootkur says KudosWall amounts to more than parents bragging about their children on Facebook. Facebook, he says, is a massive social media tool without any specific focus or means of collecting those postings into a complete, coherent resume.
KudosWall operates on a freemium model. Users can use the app or website for free and may unlock premium features like different resume templates and uploading letters of recommendation. They are able to unlock them using points that they either purchase or earn from the achievements listed on their profile.
“KudosWall will be free forever,” says Vootkur. “We will never directly charge anyone who helps students be well-rounded and prepare for their future.” Along with revenue from premium features, KudosWall is developing a paid feature for educational organizations to analyze information from their students’ profiles. This feature will be free for nonprofit organizations like Boys & Girls clubs and YMCAs.
KudosWall has a “few hundred” users and is still a self-funded venture, according to Vootkur, adding he’s invested $100,000 to date and expects to “sustain ourselves for the near future.” KudosWall was the audience favorite at the NH High Tech Council’s 2016 TechOut Competition and received $20,000.
However, Vootkur is focused on developing and growing KudosWall’s platform and team rather than “stretching us thin” by entering numerous competitions. He plans to expand his staff to include marketing, business development and product development departments based in Nashua and bring aboard investors with a “passion for K through 12 education and willingness to guide us.”
For more information, visit kudoswall.com.