Tuesday Dec 4, 2012 by Susan Johnston - Contributor, VentureFizz
Boston is home to over 150 educational technology companies, ranging from early stage startups to established brands, but it lacks the support system that healthcare and high tech startups have for collaboration. Three EdTech leaders recently joined forces to cofound LearnLaunch, which launches today.
LearnLaunch cofounder Eileen Rudden, a Lotus alum who served as the Chief Officer of College and Career Preparation for the Chicago Public Schools, says education is a critical economic and social issue for the U.S. “As someone who had been in the software world for many years, it felt like teachers and principals and the schools themselves were living in a world that was 25 years behind,” she says. “I came back to Boston a year ago and found a thriving EdTech startup world.”
In the thick of that world was Marissa Lowman, a former Fulbright fellow who founded a series of networking events called EdTechup, and Jean Hammond, a member and investor of Hub Angels and Launchpad Venture Group who founded Kids Club, a peer-learning group for startups that market to families.
After conducting a survey of Boston’s EdTech landscape, “we realized that entrepreneurs weren’t really getting the resources they need to get their companies off the ground and succeed in the space,” says Lowman, who is LearnLaunch’s executive director. “LearnLaunch is a way to combat that issue and really bring them together in a more formalized way.”
Rudden adds, “clearly [education is] a sector that whether you look at college where the issues are affordability and completion rates or if you look at public education, it could really benefit.” The companies themselves would benefit from more focused resources, but Rudden predicts that the local economy and schools will also see a positive impact.
LearnLaunch is already offering classes on topics like SEO for Education and Selling to Higher Education. “We’re not trying to duplicate things that are available elsewhere like how to incorporate,” says Rudden. “It’s specific to this very large sector, which has its own culture and its own regulations and mores.”
They also plan to offer peer learning groups and a conference in February at MIT called Across Boundaries: Innovation & the Future of Education. Lowman says they ultimately hope to have a physical space and develop an accelerator focused on education technology. “We have the foundation here for the community because we have such great universities and public education and a lot of people passionate about education,” she adds. “We hope to bring all these groups together to work on changing education for the better through incorporation of technology.”