Making connections

KNC Software L.L.C. meets online educational needs

There are two things every aspiring entrepreneur needs: cash and a great idea. Marvin Butler had both in 1996 when he founded KNC Software L.L.C. in Los Angeles.

KNC provides software and content for educational purposes to approximately 15,000 schools and districts nationwide and in 91 countries.

“Teachers and students can use our custom KNC browser to surf the Net without exposure to inappropriate sites,” says Butler, president and CEO. The company also provides original, educator-authored lesson plans, units and activities for K-12 education.

The Los Angeles-based company had its start in Butler’s basement with $500 to cover start-up costs such as licensing. Butler says he used an additional of $40,000 from his personal savings and private investors to purchase equipment, hire a staff, establish a Website and move KNC to an office building. His success as a stockbroker and investment banker handling Internet portfolios was good preparation for raising funds, and Butler decided to put those skills to work for his own venture. Other motivations drove him as well, including the desire to build something for his three daughters.

“If you really want to make a whole lot of money, it’s hard to do that working for somebody else,” says Butler.

His business is a picture of success, with about 60 employees, revenues of $1 million in 1999 and projected revenues of more than $3 million in 2000. KNC has quietly carved out a niche in a market served by giants like Microsoft in the nation’s schools. Teachers and students use both the company’s five- and three-inch CDs, as well as the Internet site www.kidsnetconnect.com. There is also a page for parents on the Website. Although KNC’s software and content is provided at no cost to schools and teachers, KNC generates income from age-appropriate advertising on each page.

The company’s marketing efforts include e-mail targeted to educators, print advertising, a 1999 advertising campaign in theaters showing Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace and contests with corporate partners.

Butler’s strategies for growth include the introduction of new products and services for the education market. KNC will introduce a subscription-based product to schools; an e-commerce site that would allow schools to purchase a variety of supplies; a site just for parents with lessons for home; and a browser for the visually impaired.

And while KNC is adding subscription-based products, Butler says he always wants to keep some products available at no cost so that all teachers will have access to KNC’s content. Butler proves that perhaps there is some truth to the adage that the best things in life are free.

KNC Software L.L.C., 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 1700, Los Angeles CA 90045; 800-296-9579 or 310-665-0500; www.kidsnetconnect.com.

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