About Us

Why did we start LivingTree?

What if this generation's leading social media innovators decided to build a private and safe social network specifically for the K-12 Education System?

Why would they do this?

They would build it because it is the key and missing ingredient to better connecting everyone as partners in the context of educating our children - and because improving the quality of education across the world is good for children, and economic growth.

What would a network built for the K-12 Education system look like?

It would be safe, structured, unifying, and comprehensive.

  • Safe: One private and safe connective fabric for all those involved in teaching our kids: agencies, administrators, districts, schools, teachers, students, and parents.
  • Structured: This network would be "hierarchical" - the way the real K-12 System works.
  • Unifying: Sharing at all tiers up and down the hierarchy: posts, photos / media, alerts, push notifications, links, documents, curriculum, events, reminders, volunteer signups, fundraising, web / Android, iOS apps, and translation support so that everyone can participate and engage in the education of our children, no matter the preferred language.
  • Comprehensive: It would service full K12 spectrum (even Pre-K) - not just teachers and students in high school.

But today's social network giants didn't build this platform.

LivingTree did.

We set out in 2012 to take a bold step to revolutionize how those who educate our children connect, collaborate, and coordinate. We leveraged the power of Web 2.0 principles to build a unique, patent-pending hierarchical/contextual social network that emulates the natural organization that exists in a K-12 educational system. LivingTree is the only private, hierarchical group collaboration platform for educational networks (agencies, districts, schools, classrooms, parents/students) built in the context of optimizing community, family and student engagement for the full range of K-12 school systems. Our feature-rich Web 2.0 platform displaces outdated tools such as email blasts/notification systems, web/parent portals, websites, teacher blogs, volunteer websites, printed handouts, etc.

We empower education leaders and organizations to connect, share and coordinate at all levels of the network by sharing posts, push notifications/alerts, media, files, events, content, volunteer/sign up management, private direct messaging and directory listings. The network also extends to ancillary networks (e.g., PTA, athletics, student government, etc.), as well as equal access for everyone in the socio-economic curve with rich web access, full featured Android and iOS applications and translation support in 100+ languages so that every family has a seat at the window of the classroom and school community.

While our network starts with the family at the center, it "tiers" the relationships and group memberships contextually based on where each user "sits" in the network. Users are given context based on the groups they belong to, and the context of what relationships or connections those groups have with other groups in the hierarchy - kind of like 'a K-12 org chart.' This context defines how users view/receive from the network and how they share at each level up, down or across the network.

As parents ourselves, we're extremely proud to bring LivingTree to K-12 - to shatter the mold in the way partnerships are formed and nurtured internally within schools and externally with families, to provide THE safe, structured, unifying, and comprehensive platform necessary to push education forward.

Why the Lion in the Brand?

There is a tree in Africa, called the Baobab Tree. It is referred to as the "tree of life," providing shelter, food, and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the desert regions. Prides of lions are known to establish themselves under or nearby these trees given the nourishment they provide.

The story of this tree struck us, as it is our goal to enable that one safe place for all parents and educators so that we can all raise the pride together!

Who are we?

Gary Hensley - CEO and President

Gary Hensley came to LivingTree via the acquistion of EdBacker (now LivingTree Give) in 2017. Gary founded Edbacker in 2013 to address America’s educational funding gap, creating the first enterprise crowdfunding platform for the K-12 district market. A serial entrepreneur, Hensley sold his previous company, Intagrade - an early-warning dropout prevention algorithm - to Pearson in 2009, where Hensley also served as the Director of Product Management and Strategic Partnerships until 2013. Prior to his work in the technology space, Hensley worked as both a teacher and Assistant Principal for the Newport Mesa Unified School District in Southern California. Hensley was named DC’s Top Entrepreneur 40 under 40, and was recently on the cover of Washington Life Magazine’s Top 25 Tech Companies Making A Difference issue, where Edbacker was named Best New Product in the Tech and Learning space. A father of two, Hensley grew up within a military family and currently resides outside of Washington DC.

Nicholas Walker - CTO

Nick lives in Austin, TX with his wife and three children. He spends his free time coaching youth soccer, chauffeuring kids to hockey/swimming/guitar lessons, running marathons (18 and counting), and watching “My Little Pony” with his daughter.

Prior to joining LivingTree, Nick acquired over 20 years of engineering technology, product management, and business leadership experience.

Career Highlights
  • 12 years as Founder and CEO/CTO of Manticore Technology. Manticore provided a SaaS marketing automation platform and became a multimillion dollar recurring revenue business utilizing only a small amount of seed capital.
  • Merged Manticore Technology with Sales Engine International (SEI) and, after serving as CTO for one year, now sits on the SEI Board of Directors.
  • Led Hewlett Packard’s CloudFoundry strategy as part of the initial launch of the HPE Helion Development Platform, including advising on investment in the CloudFoundry open source community and recommending M&A targets.
  • MBA, University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business.
  • BSE, Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Advisory Board

Joni Carswell - Advisory Board Chairman

Joni lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two sons who are into superheroes, anything with wheels, heavy machinery, and general demolition and destruction.

Joni has spent over 13 years in product focused roles ranging from product management and strategy to logistics and operations.

Career Highlights
  • Director of Strategic Planning, responsible for three year roadmap and strategic plan for Polycom’s $1.5B Unified Communication and Collaboration portfolio.
  • Senior product planning and strategy roles at Dell Computer responsible for key emerging technologies, portfolio planning, and category rejuvenation.
  • Leadership roles at Guidant Corporation and Kurt Salmon Associates responsible for production and operational efficiency, strategy, and workforce planning.
  • BS, Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University, MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and MEM from McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University