Almost a decade before the pandemic forced America’s students into virtual school, Granville Templeton’s education-tech startup saw the future
Published in 2021 Maryland Super Lawyers magazine
on December 14, 2020
Updated on December 17, 2020
In 2011, Granville Templeton III and his business partner had a thought: Let’s digitalize the education system.
“We wanted to create a software system that puts everything a student, teacher or parent needs in one square box,” Templeton says. Partner Alexis Coates brought the tech know-how and Templeton brought the business acumen. Soon, startup 1sqbox was born.
The idea grew from the one-on-one classroom technology rollout schools were gearing up for nationwide.
“The more well-to-do schools were getting iPads for all of their students, and the public schools had some funds out there to purchase hardware—not for every student—but more important, they lacked software,” Templeton says.
And the software they had was problematic. “The available apps to download weren’t that great, and teachers were having a big problem with it,” Templeton says.
But creating just the software wasn’t enough for Templeton. He and Coates flew to China in 2012 to meet with a manufacturer of tablets to create their own unique device.
“That solved the issue if a school system liked our software but didn’t have a device,” Templeton says. “It was a one-stop shop.”
With device in hand, the duo traveled the East Coast pitching.
“We did over 50 Shark Tank presentations, basically, and being a lawyer helped,” Templeton says. “I’ve done enough jury trials where I have to think of everyone’s perspective; I was able to figure out the questions they were going to ask before they asked.”
After an initial $300,000 in angel investments, 1sqbox was up and running in 2013. Templeton became CEO, and the edu-tech startup had a downtown Baltimore brick-and-mortar, a few staffers, and a handful of individual school clients as well as six school districts.
But during the next round of investments, promised capital didn’t come through, and decision-makers in the education system started questioning if the technology was necessary. By 2015, 1sqbox was mostly on pause.
And then came 2020.
Templeton says he has to laugh. “We were a little early for the market,” he says. “I cannot tell you how many phone calls I have received. Everyone is like, ‘This was what you were building 10 years ago!’”
Now the band is getting back together. “Sitting down with my daughter as she has started her virtual learning has enabled me to point out all the things that are just not working,” Templeton says. “Namely, we’re trying to run an education system over a system designed for business.”
In August, Templeton and Coates got their original 1sqbox consultants back together. “We’ve been moving fast, and we’re scheduled to put out a product in January,” he says.
He’s also nurturing another pet project, a not-yet-released app called MyLawNow, the Uber of lawyer-client video consultations. “This is a legal tech solution for attorneys to be able to have instant video consultations with potential and current clients,” Templeton says. “The software will include an ‘available now’ model, like Uber. So if an attorney is available, you can hit the button and start video conferencing with the attorney ASAP.”
He’s still working out the fee structure, but attorneys or firms could buy a monthly subscription, and consumers would pay a flat fee per consult.
“Access to good legal help is not something everyone has,” Templeton says. “Often, you want to find someone in an area of law and talk ASAP, not the three days it takes to get on someone’s schedule.”
There’s also the task of running Templeton Law Firm, which specializes in business law. His startup clients really jump-start his creativity.
“I love when clients come to me with an idea that’s maybe been sitting dormant for awhile, and I get to help them walk that concept into something real. That’s really an incredible thing to witness,” Templeton says.
Plus, he can impart some well-learned wisdom: Go big or go home.
“Something I always reflect on is how many people, after my presentations, would tell me to take away all the screens in my pitch that had to do with what I thought the future would be of 1sqbox,” he says. “I would say, ‘This would allow a teacher in Paris to educate a student in Minnesota,’ and the general feedback was, ‘No, no. That’s too much. Plus, the technology will never have to do something like that.’”