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Ballmer Sees Software as Key Link to Reach At-Risk Schoolkids

Former Microsoft CEO invests $59 million in ‘customer-management’ tool for schools, social services workers 

Connie and Steve Ballmer

Connie and Steve Ballmer

The Ballmer Group

Former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is backing a project to give schools and social service workers technology to find and predict when kids need help like food aid, after-school care and tutoring.

Ballmer and his wife Connie, who together founded the Ballmer Group to fight poverty among children and families, are investing $59 million over five years for a stake in Austin-based Social Solutions, which is owned by Vista Equity Partners. The cash will help fund the software developer and set up projects in 20 cities that will connect the company’s Apricot software to school data on things like attendance and grades. The software is similar to the kind of customer-management programs that companies like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Corp. sell to corporate clients, but it’s designed to help school officials and social workers provide services to kids, Ballmer said. Salesforce’s philanthropic arm is also working on a similar program, Ballmer said.