The ruvna origin story begins in a computer science classroom in a high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Soon-to-be CEO Joey Nutinsky and CTO Jack Ruppel, both 20, spent a lot of time in that classroom, for two reasons.
“We’d taken all of the computer science classes offered,” Nutinsky said, “and somehow we got our school to agree to give us ‘Independent Study’ where we just got to sit in the classroom and learn about programming.”
But pure passion isn’t the only reason ruvna was built out of that classroom.
“We both had no friends in high school,” Nutinsky says, “So we’d be in the computer science classroom during lunch instead of sitting alone in the cafeteria.”
This second reason — and the corresponding bullying that Nutinsky and Ruppel experienced in high school — contributed directly to ruvna’s first product: a behavior analysis tool that aims to spot trends in the student body before they become major problems.
The startup’s flagship product, ruvna core, allows teachers to fill out referrals in a simple online form, then send the form to the administration for disciplinary consequences. At the student level this enables easy tracking of student behavior through the day, week and school year. Over time, it also allows educators to assess whether disciplinary measures are having any effect.
This data can also be scaled up to see trends at the grade, school and (in Nutinsky’s plan for the platform) city district levels.
Nutinsky and Ruppel built ruvna core over the course of about a year and a half in high school. During this time, they maintained a close relationship with the school administration. “Our high school gave us tremendous support,” Nutinsky says. “I think at one point we were having weekly meetings with the administration to run new features by them, or ask what other capabilities they’d like to see in the product.”
When they launched the beta version of ruvna core in 2012, their high school became the first school to use the technology.
It was around this time that Nutinsky and Ruppel discovered that what had been a passion project aimed at improving one school could actually be valuable in many schools around the country. Ruvna was born.
The second product on the ruvna platform, ruvna emergency, is also inspired by real-world inefficiencies. “During an emergency at a school there is no way of quickly, safely and accurately accounting for students,” Nutinsky says.
Ruvna emergency aims to change this with software that, during an emergency, prompts teachers with a list of the students that should be in their classroom. Teachers simply check off the names of the students that are present, and do nothing if a student is not present. Administrators are then provided with a list of students that are not accounted for, information they can share with law enforcement so as to focus attention where it is most needed.
According to Nutinsky, ruvna emergency “can account for students quicker than any solution that is doing it now.”
Today ruvna boasts a team of four (COO Mike Geddes and CFO Marshall Singer, both 21, have since joined), and is run out of the American University incubator. The platform also has its first paying client — a school in Connecticut.
They’ve got big goals too, both for expanding use and for adding products.
“We very intentionally call ourselves a platform,” Nutinsky says. “Right now we have two awesome products, but there are definitely more ways to make schools smarter and safer.”
And the name? There’s a story, but it might not be what you expect. “When we first started working we had no idea what the name was going to be,” Nutinsky says, “We realized that small domain names don’t exist anymore. And so if we wanted our product to be called ‘safer schools’ the domain name would have to be ‘saferschoolsissuchacoolapp.awesome.org.com.’ So we wrote a scraping algorithm to find small but speakable domain names and [ruvna] was one that came up so we grabbed it right away.”