Kim Jacobson
(d.school fellow 2013-2014)

It wasn’t an explicit policy, but it was clearly conveyed by school officials that, at 5′ 4 ½”, teaching in Compton’s high schools wasn’t an option for Kim Jacobson. The threat of severe, if not fatal, bodily injury was all too real. So in 1991, Kim, one of Teach for America’s earliest recruits, became a bilingual teacher at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Kim was drawn away from her focus in international business to teaching when she learned of the nation’s growing drop-out rates. She found herself in Compton during the Rodney King riots. Snipers watched over her and her colleagues as they went to and from work, while Martial law helped keep an eerie peace.

The experience in Compton ultimately established Kim’s worldview around education. She went on to spend seven years in and out of the classroom — three as a classroom teacher, a year on special assignment, a year as a technology resource teacher and then two as an education consultant. Kim left teaching to expand her understanding of technology and business with an eye toward one day bringing this additional knowledge back to the world of education.

She attended Stanford's Graduate School of Business and School of Education, where she earned her MBA and a Master’s degree in Education with a focus on Learning, Design, Technology (LDT) and device design. Years before Apple unveiled the iPad, she designed a mobile tablet for kids. The process led Kim to realize she needed to go deeper in her understanding of technology and how successful companies are built. She went on to the private sector, working for Excite@Home’s Broadband division, where she served as Senior Group Product Manager for the communication businesses.

She went on to become the Director of Marketing and Business Development at MailFrontier, Inc., which was later acquired by network security company SonicWall, now owned by Dell. After MailFrontier, Kim turned to the non-profit world, becoming the Director of Marketing and Product Development at The Robert Noyce Foundation, which is dedicated to improving math and science teaching in the Bay Area’s public schools. After a year with the foundation, she dove back into the technology sector and ran the launch of Macromedia’s Flash 2004 product -- an $80 million business for the company.

The product was used by 500 million viewers and one million developers around the world. Macromedia was eventually acquired by Adobe. She also joined the Bay Area non-profit accelerator Full Circle Fund, which allowed her to maintain a more direct connection to the education sector. She has volunteered there for 10 years as a mentor, investor and grant director. Her next post was at the wireless digital media startup Orb Networks, where she served as general manager for product marketing and management. She then left to become vice president at Oodle, for which she developed a partnership with Facebook and ran the launch of Facebook Marketplace. Ready to get back to her passion and recognizing an opportunity to reshape education, Kim left Oodle to found Junyo, a learning analytics company for K-12 education. While there, she ran Product, Marketing, Business Development and Sales.

More than 20 years after she arrived in Compton, Kim is a business development, product management and marketing expert and also has a deep knowledge of education. Her career has approached education from nearly every angle, from in-class teaching to educational product development, cutting-edge technology innovation and foundation grant work. Asked about her career trajectory, she says that, at each point, she wanted to work with nascent technologies and concepts to understand how they would evolve society and specifically education.

Today, Kim is working on launching the first Innovation Zone (iZone) in California, an R&D lab for public schools across San Mateo County where area school officials are partnering with Silicon Valley experts to address complex problems. The program, which is among Full Circle’s 2013 grant partners, will ideally answer these questions: How do we get educators to the table where those on the ground can generate the solutions they need, and how can we leverage Silicon Valley’s strengths to design highly effective education systems? The next year will, hopefully, provide Kim with some answers. Follow Kim on Twitter at @kimjw.

Related Links

Full Circle Fund: Khan Academy Full Circle Fund: Oakland Unified School District