Former Education Czar Brings E-Commerce to Public Schools

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and two-time presidential candidate Lamar Alexander is entering the world of e-commerce as the founder and chairman of, a Web site that is designed to help public schools save money by procuring goods and services online.

Alexander, who is also the President of the University of Tennessee, is kicking off his new venture with the goal of saving U.S. schools $10 billion (US$) over the next five years. He claims that educational institutions spend more than $115 billion per year on goods and services such as textbooks, cleaning supplies, buses, and computer hardware and software.

“Schools write an estimated 25 million purchase orders each year with an average processing cost of $125 per requisition — over and above the cost of goods and services ordered,” Alexander said. “By dramatically reducing these processing costs for participating school systems, will save billions for schools and reduce the time it takes needed supplies to reach teachers and students.”

Web Site for Online Procurement

Simplexis hopes to save schools time and money by connecting schools and suppliers in an online market with automated purchasing. “Small orders mean high prices,” noted Alexander. “ gives schools the power to combine orders within and among districts to create volume purchasing power. This cooperative buying power can add up to real dollar savings — an estimated 5-10 percent discount on purchase prices.”

Alexander also said that the site was designed after consultations with educators, principals, superintendents and purchasing officials, all of whom complain that their current purchasing systems are too slow and highly paper-intensive. He added that more than 100 school districts have already asked to be signed up on the system.

Free for School Districts

Simplexis said that the new service will be free for school districts and will comply fully with legal requirements of the respective states and the individual districts’ policies.

The company added that the site will provide fulfillment processes from order placement through delivery to billing and remittance, as well as deliver purchase orders from purchaser to supplier and generate tailored tracking and budget reports on purchase status for routine reports and audits.

Alexander’s Team

Alexander has some experienced partners in his new venture. Simplexis’ CEO is Amar Singh, who formerly led the marketing and strategic development team at i2 Technologies, a leading supply chain management software company.

The venture’s technology partners include business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce company Commerce One, which develops online trading networks, and procurement software company Corio, Inc., which has software for automating the purchasing process from RFQs to requisitions to purchase orders and shipping documents.

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