It’s not every day that over 150 angel and venture capital investors, education industry leaders, and the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, come together in one room to hear from startup companies. That is exactly the stage that was set for LearnLaunchX’s Inaugural Demo Day on September 19. At District Hall in the heart of Boston’s Innovation District, LearnLaunchX graduated its first cohort of early stage edtech companies. However, while most Boston graduations combine pomp and circumstance with caps and gowns, this ceremony involved pitch decks, product demos, and discussions of the pressing issues in the education sector.
LearnLaunchX, founded this past February, is Boston’s first edtech accelerator. According to Jean Hammond, one of the co-founders of LearnLaunchX, the seven companies that were featured at Demo Day were selected to participate in the intensive residential summer mentoring program based on their “exceptional potential to make education more effective, impactful, accessible, and affordable across the education continuum.”
Here’s a summary of the seven new companies looking to make waves in the edtech space:
As an award-winning public radio reporter and host with 25 years of experience, Monica Brady-Myerov founded Listen Edition (@ListenEdition) with the hopes of becoming the “leading provider of listening tools.” Inspired by her two children’s informal education experiences listening to stories on public radio, Ms. Brady-Myerov now strives to bring radio into STEM and social studies classrooms, along with corresponding lesson plans and activities. All Listen Edition curricular materials are aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that now mandate critical thinking and listening skills.
Parul Singh, founder of Gradeable (@gradeable), observed that if you log onto Twitter at any given moment, you will “find teachers hating on grading.” Singh and the rest of her team from MIT and Harvard have developed an assessment and feedback tool that directly helps reduce teachers’ grading pain points. By converting both multiple choice and written answer paper-based assessments to digital information, Gradeable saves teachers time while providing them with real-time analytics and automatic data collection. In essence, Gradeable seeks to power the next generation of educators by giving them improved efficiency and insight.
Dee Kanejiya introduced his company Cognii (@cognii) as “Siri for education.” Cognii’s natural language processing technology was based on Kanejiya’s own Ph.D. research. He has now applied to automatic assessment of students’ essay-type answers for online learning platforms. The core features of Cognii's services improve students' engagement and knowledge retention while providing an easy way to assess cognitive learning through customized feedback.
Tech. Arts. Play. Those three words constitute the basis for Leonid Tunik’s company, Empow Studios (@empowlearning). Mr. Tunik and the rest of his team empower kids (ages 4-15) to discover their talents for the 21st century through introducing tech skills in after-school and summer programs. However, in addition to video game design, animation, and robotics, Empow students also come away with problem-solving skills and increased self-respect and resiliency. With their first franchise launched in Lexington, MA, the Empow team hopes to have more student-reviews such as this one: “Empow Studios taught me that creativity and science could be done together.”
Countdown (@countdowntool) was founded with the purpose of creating more effective planners leading to higher quality instruction. The introduction of the CCSS disrupted the planning process of teachers, and CEO and co-founder Sarah Cherry-Rice saw this as an opportunity. Countdown allows educators to build online CCSS-aligned curriculum maps and share resources across districts. Countdown provides teachers and districts with an intuitive interface that improves pacing and brings the CCSS to the forefront of a more engaging, collaborative, and personalized planning process.
Ben Levy’s company, eduCanon (@educanon123), is all about interactive video, unleashed (which makes sense, given that their logo is a dachshund). Developed when Mr. Levy was a middle school science teacher with Teach for America, eduCanon provides powerful, easy-to-use tools to transform video from a “sit-back” experience to one that causes students and teachers to “lean forward.” Using the eduCanon platform, checks-for-understanding can be embedded into any video, resulting in engaging and personalized lesson plans perfect for flipped and blended classroom environments.
Intellify Learning’s founder Chris Ventro wants to know how higher education is using data about learning to improve online courses. As the former CTO of Blackboard, WebCT, and Cengage, Mr. Ventro is no stranger to online learning environments. With his new venture, he seeks to provide a standards-based instrumentation framework for online course developers and schools, curriculum and learning designers, and edtech app developers. Essentially, Intellify (@intellify) looks to capture, aggregate, measure, correlate, and compare big data, resulting in improved online learning experiences across multiple platforms.
For more details, check out the Twitter hashtag posts (#llxdemoday) from the event.