Earlier this week, entrepreneurs from seven education technology startups showcased products and pitched business plans at LearnLaunch’s Accelerator Demo Day.
LearnLaunch Accelerator supports edtech startups from across the globe with access to mentors, coaching, seed funding, and other resources essential to growth. The event, held at District Hall in the Seaport, attracted more than 200 investors and education leaders.
“I’m excited by this group,” said LearnLaunch Program Manager, Liam Pisano. “A lot of folks have families and real-life responsibilities, so these are very real endeavors for them. It’s exciting when you see someone’s passion come to life.”
Now in its third year, 26 startups (including those that presented at this week’s Demo Day) have participated in LearnLaunch Accelerator.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without LearnLaunch,” says ListenCurrent founder and CEO, Monica Brady-Myerov, a LearnLaunch Accelerator alumni. She says her company, which helps bring public radio to the classroom, saw “explosive growth” after LearnLaunch.
Tech Tackles Top Education Challenges
The latest group of LearnLaunch Accelerator startups revealed how their technology helps address top challenges across education - like mathematics, admissions process, adult education, and more.
Problem: Many students attend a 2-year community college in hopes of saving money on the hefty price tag tied to a 4-year institution. But when credits don’t transfer and additional courses or semesters are tacked on, the cost quickly adds up.
Startup Solution: Enter Affordable College, a community college national transfer network that aims to help students afford and attain a bachelor’s degree by arming them with the information they need from the get-go. Students plug information, like where they plan to transfer after community college, into the Affordable College app (not yet available). They immediately learn what credits will be non-transferrable at the school they plan to attend. The app also shows a comparison of anticipated costs with alternative institutions.
Problem: Parents already know the numerous benefits of shared reading. But, for bilingual families, accessing translated versions of English storybooks can be near impossible - meaning shared reading might be, too. Due to high printing and translation costs, many publishers can’t swing multiple language versions of their books.
Startup Solution: Boston-based Bab’l Books makes bilingual storybooks possible via the power of crowdsourcing. Launched last fall, the organization has already translated 20 storybooks into 13 languages. Bab’l Books’ unique page layout features translated text on the same page as English text, allowing bilingual children to practice reading with non-English speakers. The company contains costs by leveraging a crowdsourced community to provide accurate, unbiased translations, and printing and distributing is done solely through Amazon.
Problem: Students have a hard time learning and developing mathematics skills because the concepts can be difficult to connect to real life. They too often question how, when, or why they’d use the skills they’re learning in class.
Startup Solution: Cashtivity leverages entrepreneurial and business basics to help students connect the dots between math and life. A SaaS solution for teachers and institutions, it allows educators to search a cloud of collaborative math “challenges” and supports them in creating a team-oriented lesson plan. Students are presented with mock businesses and use math to brainstorm concepts, outline a target market, define products, start selling, and manage banking and payments.
Problem: Underserved adult learners often get the short end of the stick when it comes to education. Classes are difficult to get into, usually held at inconvenient hours, and frequently present curriculum in an unengaging way.
Startup Solution: Led by a research network from MIT Education Arcade, Learning Games offers fun, engaging, mobile educational games. Adult learners can play solo or in teams, and sophisticated designs and gaming mechanics keep them engaged. Players create their own character and complete a series of missions that help them build basic digital skills, improve English, and more.
Problem: The college application process is difficult to navigate. Some parents spend into the thousands for access to an admissions consultant, while lower-income students and families are left hanging.
Startup Solution: MENLO helps level the college application playing field by offering students access to automated courses and expert commentary. Launched in the fall, MENLO currently supports undergraduate and MBA candidates. Support comes in the form of short, high-impact online modules on topics like college essays, completing The Common Application, and more. It provides real-life examples featuring in-line and video notes from MENLO’s network of former admissions officers.
Problem: As public and charter school budgets continue to get cut, more parents are picking up the tab. They’re often left to choose between sending their student to class with cash or standing in line before and after school to make a payment. What’s more, because of the cost, most schools forgo sophisticated payment systems for manual spreadsheets.
Startup Solution: Skookii makes paying school fees simple for parents and institutions. The platform and app lets parents pay online or via their mobile device. It includes multi-student and multi-school capabilities and makes it easy for parents to keep tabs on each child’s spending. For schools, it’s a cost-effective solution with a quick learning curve and without complex commitments.
Problem: Sixty-two percent of new teachers say they’re unprepared for the classroom upon graduation, and many teachers report feeling isolated and alone during their early years. What’s more, proposed regulations from the U.S. Department of Education could mean new teachers are more closely monitored in the years following graduation.
Startup Solution: TeachersConnect is an online community that mentors and nurtures new teachers. Members are encouraged to ask questions, discuss important topics, and share successes, helping them better navigate the classroom. It partners with teacher prep programs to help establish better post-graduate relationships, while providing the programs with key data needed for compliance. TeachersConnect next week launches its paid pilot program UMass Boston, Loyola University, Fairfield University, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Find out more about LearnLaunch by visiting learnlaunch.org
Images via Red Javelin Communications and Kaite Rosa.