NComputing wants to wire America's schools

Matt Bowman · September 8, 2009 · Short URL:

The thin-client virtualization startup has captured 15% of the K-12 education market in two years.

President Obama has earmarked billions of stimulus dollars for education technology. If the education system holds true to form, that money will be summarily devoured, leaving the bureaucracy hungry for seconds. The problem is that short-term windfalls can easily go to short-term programs. On the other hand, investing in long-term technology infrastructure can require ongoing IT support, which means a minor glitch turns a classroom into a digital graveyard.

Virtualization startup NComputing thinks they have a solution. The two-year-old startup provides thin-client virtualization that enables up to 30 screens to run off a single computer, at a cost of $70 per station. The company has sold millions of stations to schools internationally, including 180,000 in Macedonia schools and 50,000 Andhra Pradesh, India, and CEO Stephen Dukker says they’ve cornered 15% of the market for workstation purchases in U.S. K-12 schools. Check out the embedded video interview with Dukker for a rundown on the company’s traction and exit prospects.

I also spoke with investor Rob Herb of Scale Venture Partners, who says he likes NComputing for two reasons: Dukker is a dynamic, “evangelistic” entrepreneur who “brought eMachines from nothing to $1 billion in and a very short time,” and NComputing fills a big hole in the market. Herb, who as a long-time executive at AMD saw a lot of virtualization solutions, says most thin-client architecture is fine for text, but not for the rich experience NComputing enables, and traditional Citrix-based solutions are not good for small business and schools, since they would normally require an IT person.

I asked Dukker what it’s like to run a company with such a potentially broad social impact. He says attracting top talent is easy, and that turnover is almost 0%, compared with the Silicon Valley average of 20%.

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