May 28, 2014

LearnLaunchX Demo Day: Boston's Newest EdTech Startups Debut

Yesterday afternoon at District Hall, seven companies showcased their education tech based startups. Christopher Mirabile of LaunchPad Venture Group emceed the event, which marked the entrepreneurs’ graduation from the LearnLaunchX Accelerator Program. 

LearnLaunchX is Boston’s education technology accelerator, helping early-stage edtech companies bring their solutions successfully to market. Each of the startups received seed funding, participated in LearnLaunchX’s intensive three-month mentoring and business development accelerator program, and received access to services and office space at the LearnLaunch Campus. 

The graduating companies come from all over, including New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Belgium and three from the Boston area. Hopefully, many of them will be sticking around moving forward, but as LearnLaunch founder Vinit Nijhawan told me “it’s up to the investors to keep them here.” 

These companies are likely going to head where the money and early customers take them. Furthermore, Nijhawan pointed out that “as the education capital of the world, we need these institutions to step up and be the early adopters for these startups. Startups need customers.” 

One of those Boston-based startups is QuadWrangle, who I profiled back in April. Now that they are out of the accelerator, it will be exciting to see what co-founders Nick Zeckets (CEO) and David Palmer (CTO) can accomplish moving forward with their software platform which provides more personal and valuable alumni engagement. I found Zeckets’ presentation impressive, so perhaps he caught the eye of some of the many investors in the room. 

Each of these startups has loads of upside and a wealth of knowledge and experience behind them coming out of LearnLaunch, but I want to focus a bit more on the other two Boston-based startups; CueThink & uConnect

CueThink, out of Reading, MA, is, as founder & CEO Sheela Sethuraman put it, “making math social.” The company, who received $900,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, has create a tablet solution for math students that provides step-by-step learning and offers meaningful feedback. Students who have used the program say to them, “It shows what I am thinking” - certainly a valuable learning tool there. 

Also out of Boston is uConnect, the creator of custom job search platforms for colleges and universities designed to more effectively engage students in career exploration. The company’s first customer comes with a fun/inspiring story of gutsy salesmanship. Founder David Kozhuk showed up unannounced at Susan Brennan’s door at Bentley University. After telling David she only had 5 minutes, Susan, the Executive Director of Corporate Relations & Career Services, found herself bringing colleagues into her office to let them know she found the solution to their student engagement problems. 

Edtech is hot right now and Boston is just the place to launch the attack. As Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital said in a statement, “This is a trillion dollar industry ripe for disruption, and Boston has all the right DNA to lead in that disruption in the years ahead.”  Vinit Nijhawan also alluded to this, telling me there has been a significant uptick in investments in edtech here in Boston. 

LearnLaunch is gaining recognition across the country as the go-to spot to accelerate your edtech business. That bodes well for all of us here who are engrained in the tech ecosystem and beyond. With the amazing supporting cast LearnLaunch has behind it they will, without a doubt, continue to do great things for entrepreneurs trying to shake up and improve the world of education.

Josh Boyle is Director of Community & Marketing, VentureFizz.  You can follow him on Twitter: @jb_sid.