Originally from Vizianagaram, a town in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, entrepreneur Chaks Appalabattula had already earned an engineering degree with honors and was working as a computer science engineer when he decided to immigrate to the United States in 1998. Today, he is the CEO of Bloomz, a Seattle-based education tech startup that helps parents and teachers communicate through a mobile app. The company employs six people, has raised $4.5 million in venture capital funding, and has about 2 million users.
“All along, I have been working in creating new opportunities, identifying ways in which we can create value, and then building systems or solutions around it,” says Appalabattula, who worked at Infosys, Microsoft, and GlobalScholar before founding Bloomz. The app offers secure messaging, media sharing, an interactive calendar, signups, and student-behavior tracking — all in a private, secure, and controlled environment, something that generic social platforms don’t offer. He first had the idea for the app in 2014, when he became ill and had to take a six-month leave from work. “During that time, my wife had to take care of both our kids, ages 3 and 7, and they were going to two different schools. Keeping up with their teachers was a challenge,” he says.
When you are passionate, and you have a lot of ideas and things that you want to do but can’t until you get valid work status, it is frustrating.
The idea for Bloomz was born. Since its founding, the company has won plenty of accolades, including a TiE50 Top Startup award in 2017 and an award of excellence from Tech & Learning, an education technology publication, in 2018. “We continue to be the disruptor app that is making a difference to the teachers, parents, and schools,” he says. In fact, studies have shown that children perform better in school when their parents are encouraged to participate in the school’s educational activities.
Appalabattula credits America’s welcoming atmosphere with making his venture possible. “What makes America really great is the fact that we are able to attract people who are really passionate about pursuing their dreams,” he says. “America is definitely a land of opportunity. If you have passion, there is an ecosystem out here, starting with market readiness. If you have the right solution, you can easily go out there and capture the market. That’s number one. Number two is the ecosystem for the startups. We were able to attract the right amount of talent, and the capital that helped us to work on this idea. I know for sure that doing a startup in India is a lot harder, a lot more challenging. Having the right kind of immigration policy is important to make sure that the DNA of what makes the U.S. great is continued.”
Appalabattula received his green card in 2007, five years after applying. It took seven more years before he and his wife, who is also from India, became U.S. citizens. “After my wife and I filed for green cards, the whole system became really slow,” he says. “There was a time when I really wanted to move on from a certain company, but then I was completely tied to it because of the legal immigration status requirements. It was hard. When you are passionate, and you have a lot of ideas and things that you want to do but can’t until you get valid work status, it is frustrating.”