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Edtech LINQ CEO Drives Value

By Johanna F. Still, posted Jul 21, 2023
Bryan Jones, the new CEO of the education software company LINQ, is shown at the company’s Wilmington headquarters at 2528 Independence Blvd. (Photo by Madeline Gray)
Locally based education technology firm LINQ has entered a new chapter: It recently rebranded and welcomed a new leader.

Bryan Jones started as the software company’s new CEO in May. Jones has a wealth of experience in the startup sphere, with expertise in founding and leading software companies serving multiple sectors.

“Part of the reason that I joined this company was because it’s mission driven,” Jones said. “My family is very educator focused. My wife’s a teacher. My parents were professors.” 

LINQ provides business solutions to K-12 school districts across the country. 

“We are really the back-office software for school districts,” he said. 

The firm partners with 30% of districts in the country, according to its website, and 70% of districts in the state, Jones said. “We have a very strong affinity to North Carolina,” he said.

In March, the company refreshed its brand to align with its growing solutions under a comprehensive K-12 Business Platform. Founded in Wilmington in 1989 as Education Management Systems, the firm has acquired several companies over the years – six since 2020.
Nearly 5,000 school districts across the nation use LINQ’s services, which have grown to include nutrition planning, financial management, and student meal and payroll processing. Jones said more than 17 million students are served through LINQ’s nutrition services, and its software processes more than 350,000 employees’ payroll.

The combined services aim to help school leaders navigate red tape and improve efficiencies under a streamlined, unified platform.

“We came together through acquisition,” Jones said. “Where we’re headed is that those [solutions] all work better when they’re together, and the interplay between them becomes essential.”

Jones’ chief goals so far include ensuring that the various systems are cohesive under the LINQ umbrella and that clients take full advantage of the suite of solutions the firm offers.

“We’ve got a pretty big footprint,” he said. “School districts are very underfunded and have a lot of pressure on them to perform and to find ways to have their money go farther … One of the things that we’re able to do is to come in and provide them with the software and the systems to be able to streamline things to be more effective, to be more efficient and help that dollar go farther.”

Expanding LINQ’s reach is important, he said, but not as critical as ensuring it’s flowing seamlessly. “We want to have as big an impact as we can have, but we’re also mission critical; if our software doesn’t work, teachers don’t get paid. Students can’t buy lunches. Reporting falls apart,” he said.

Jones is accustomed to shepherding technology firms through transition. He began his career as a corporate attorney and later founded several companies, with experience working with private equity. He also holds several patents for digital advertising.

“I’ve been in tech for around 20 years,” he said. “I like software. I like the fact that it solves problems. And it allows for growth in the places where that software is deployed.”

Jones was CEO and co-founder of Collider Media, a firm that helped publishers reach audiences through advertising; the company was acquired by Videology Group in 2012. 

He also co-founded GetHealthy.store, an ecommerce platform for health supplements and products; b.well, a health insurance company; Tech Policy Press, a nonprofit media venture; and founded Strive & Solve Ventures, an angel investment and consulting firm.

Before joining LINQ, Jones was chief operating officer of Auctane, a shipping software company that connects third-party logistics providers to sellers. The main similarity between Auctane and LINQ is their central focus on a customer-centric experience, Jones said.

LINQ’s ecosystem of regulatory needs and widely used software fit Jones’ work history, he said. 

“LINQ to me hit that sweet spot,” he said. “It taps into some of the things that I’ve done in my past, but it’s also very key to who I am and that mission-driven aspect of wanting to do good.”

At LINQ, Jones oversees a team of about 400. This includes 75 employees based out of the Wilmington headquarters at 2528 Independence Blvd., 50 employees in an office in Scottsdale, Arizona, and about 10 in another office in Columbus, Ohio.

The pandemic prompted the company to pivot to a completely remote model, according to a LINQ spokesperson.

Jones, who is based in Austin, Texas, described LINQ as a remote company with local offices. “[Employees] can come in when they want and work the hours that they want in the office.” 

Given the shift, Jones said downsizing or exiting the Wilmington office is not currently something on the firm’s radar.

Asked whether he had specific revenue or new client goals for the upcoming year, Jones said, “Those are output numbers. I’m much more focused on input: How can we improve that customer-centric view of how we’re working with people? How can we continue to add value to our partners? How can we get more people that see the value that we bring? If we do that, then the outputs will take care of themselves.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the total number of employees at LINQ.
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