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Education Software Firm Grows

By Johanna Cano, posted Aug 20, 2021
Wilmington-based LINQ has completed six acquisitions in the past year, with the goal of expanding its family of software services to K-12 schools. (Photo courtesy of LINQ)
With six acquisitions in the past year, Wilmington-based LINQ is carrying out its mission of building an ecosystem of solutions for schools.
 
The school management software company announced this month that it had acquired Alio and eGrants, which allow the company to expand its product offerings and streamline financial and grant management for districts, according to a press release.
 
Leaders did not disclose the financial details.
 
LINQ is an education software company providing products to K-12 schools that include accounting, finance and HR, meal management and state nutrition programs, school payments, registration and school websites.
 
In 2020, LINQ partnered with two school nutrition management software providers, including the acquisition of Colyar Technology Solutions from Arizona and a merger with TITAN School Solutions from California. The company also acquired two enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms.
 
These acquisitions and subsequent growth of the company transpired during Krista Endsley’s first year as CEO of LINQ.
 
The company announced in September that Endsley would be taking over the role, which was previously held by Adam Hooks, now serving as president and general manager of the LINQ Enterprise business unit.
 
Endsley, who spent 10 years doing software for nonprofits and was the CEO of Cantata Health, said she wanted to take on the role of CEO due to having similar values with the company.
 
“I really wanted to get back to a very altruistic sector that I could really feel good about and that I could work with great people that just want to do great things, and LINQ was that,” she said. “We use our software to feed over 10 million kids a year. There’s nothing that makes you feel better than that.”
 
Coming into her role, she had goals of tripling the company’s revenue in the first three years, both through organic and inorganic growth.
 
“My goals were really around stabilizing, having a happy customer base and gaining market share, so expanding some of our local products nationally,” Endsley said.
 
With about 400 employees nationwide and serving 3,000 districts across 50 states, LINQ has grown over the years, largely due to the company “entirely redefining” how all school administration works, Endsley said.
 
“We have actually put the pieces together. We have a family portal, we have nutrition software … we have ERP software. We also have state-level software, and we have built interconnectivity to all of that,” she said. “There are processes that used to take hours or days for someone to do in the district office. And because we own all of those pieces, they can now push a button and it literally uploads to the state and they’re able to get their reimbursements approved within minutes to hours.”
 
The company’s acquisitions have also allowed it to expand its services to other parts of the country.
 
“We added on a couple of ERP platforms to allow us to have a national presence. We have over 80% of the North Carolina market on our ERP platform, but in order to expand to the rest of the U.S., we had to do a couple acquisitions to do that,” she said.
 
“Alio actually expanded us out to 26 more states. So, they definitely have a more national presence, which was something that we were really focused on doing,” she added.
 
The coronavirus pandemic affected schools with remote schooling taking place throughout the country, which in turn changed some of the operations at LINQ.
 
When students were learning remotely, in-school lunches were no longer happening so LINQ lost revenue from transaction fees. With kids no longer going to school, however, they were not coming back home with a folder of registration papers to fill out.
 
“We built a rapid registration platform that we could roll out, where they could move their forms online and that allowed them to register paperlessly,” she said. “There were a lot of adjustments that we had to make because the industry changed on us, but we were happy to do that for our customers.”
 
Endsley said her goal a year into her CEO role is to keep expanding to other states and make her firm’s products efficient, especially as many schools navigate COVID, budget cuts and a worker shortage.
 
“You hear all about budgets. You hear about teacher shortages. You hear about people being overworked,” she said. “I was in a school district last week, and they have 63 separate kitchens. They start on Monday, and they have a shortage of 40 staff members. So, the more efficient that I can make their job, the better they can do their job, the better off our kids are at the end of the day.”
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