Where do you go when you want to build a strong team for an exciting startup company? Evidently, The Master’s University. At least that’s what Cassandra Gerdes, founder and CEO of bookreport, did.
bookreport is a software and financial services company that develops tools for schools burdened by outdated financial systems. The company offloads administrative overhead from institutions so that educators can focus on serving their students.
A company like that needs great software developers. And when Gerdes was looking for new hires this past year, a providential encounter at TMU opened a brand new candidate pool to support bookreport’s mission.
Since she was 16, Gerdes has wanted to make a positive impact on the educational system, and she believed one way to help would be to study best business practices and apply them to K-12 schools.
“There’s just so much money in American education compared to other countries,” Gerdes says. “We keep growing how much we’re spending, and we haven’t seen our educational results improve in any significant way. So I wanted to figure out why we weren’t spending efficiently.”
The following years provided the perfect preparation to do just that.
Gerdes, the daughter of a businessman in the software industry, says she had a wonderful experience with education growing up. As a teen, she studied at a prestigious college-preparatory school in Massachusetts before enrolling at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
She focused her education on finance and gained hands-on experience at Goldman Sachs, the global investment bank and financial services firm. After graduation, she worked at Goldman briefly as an investment banker before leaving to become a teacher.
“No one ever leaves Goldman to become a teacher,” Gerdes says, “but I think everyone there knew that my passion was for education.”
She taught math at a charter school for low-income families in Washington, D.C. She loved the school, but she had one great frustration: the math software she was using to teach her students.
She was so frustrated that after only a year of teaching she left to start a math software company. If no acceptable program existed, she would make her own. But it wasn’t long before she found herself back in education — this time, by helping start a public Montessori school for low-income kids in the Austin, Texas, area.
At the age of 27, she was living the dream of starting a school, providing leadership in the areas of operations and finance. But once again, she found herself frustrated by software — this time, in the area of education finance.
“The tools we would use were outdated,” she says. “I came in with all of these expectations that we were going to have the cleanest books and the prettiest reports. Everyone was going to know exactly how we spend money. But I found that my time was getting filled up just trying to do the bare minimum of required compliance work, in part because the software was so hard to use.
“I kept begging my dad to go into the education sector, because he’d been running software companies creating financial accounting systems for manufacturing companies. But he was like, ‘No, I don’t have the context for that. If you want better software created for education, why don’t you do it? Just know that it’s going to take a decade to build software like that.’”
Gerdes didn’t want to start another software company. But like before, she felt sure that if she wanted a good tool to exist, she needed to build it herself. So, in 2015, she founded bookreport, and work on the new financial system began.
bookreport provides office services to the schools they partner with.
“We do all of their accounting,” Gerdes says. “We take care of the entire burden of finance, HR and payroll for them, and our software serves as a bridge. And this is because it became very clear that this is the model that serves our customers best. We completely solve the entire problem for them — that problem being that these parts of the business are a huge pain in the neck that school leaders don’t have the time and expertise to focus on.”
Now, the schools they partner with can focus all of their energies on the education they provide, rather than sinking much of their time into staying compliant financially and administratively.
Seven years later, her dad’s prediction of a 10-year timeline is proving true.
But in order to develop software, you need software developers. Last fall, the reality of that came home with an urgent hiring need.
“Within two weeks of each other, both of my current developers left. They had been working at bookreport for three years already, and developers like to do new, different things. So it wasn’t a contentious thing. But it left me with zero developers,” she says.
Enter TMU’s Career Services department.
At TheoTech 2021 (TMU’s annual conference exploring technology through the lens of Scripture), an unplanned meeting occurred between Gerdes’ father, Jeff, and a staff member at TMU. That opened a door of collaboration.
“Now, eight of our nine developers are from The Master’s,” Gerdes says. “And they’re all amazing. And we also have a couple of interns right now on the services team, doing accounting work, who are from The Master’s. So it very quickly became an amazing relationship between bookreport and TMU. The University has gone to great lengths to send us really great candidates. They’ve gone above and beyond for us, and we’re so excited about the relationship we have now, and how quickly it’s bearing fruit.”
Gerdes attended TheoTech 2022 on Oct. 29 and spent time with TMU’s community. Meanwhile, work continues at bookreport,
“If you would have asked me at 27, I would have said, ‘I’m doing something different from what I wanted to do back then.’ So it’s kind of crazy that I’m back to education finance, which is what I thought I would be doing.”
“I am just so thankful for our relationship with TMU thus far,” Gerdes says, “and I’m excited to see what comes of it in the future.”
To learn more about bookreport, visit their website, bookreport.io.