Worth noting this year: Actively Learn was also in the first cohort. (According to Diana Stepner, Pearson's VP of Innovative Partnership and Developer Relations, the startup will be tackling a different "learning challenge" from last time.)
Two participants (GlassLab and Learning Games Network) are nonprofits focused on building educational games. GlassLab is by no means a startup, at least in the financial sense: in 2012 it got $10 million from Electronic Arts, the Entertainment Software Association, and the MacArthur and Gates foundations. Learning Games Network, founded in 2008, has received support from NewSchools Venture Fund and the Gates Foundation.
Startups are chosen based on their ability to address a set of learning challenges that Pearson will release every March. The Catalyst program, which begins in June, is largely a 3-month pilot to see whether these tools are a right "fit" for the world's largest publisher. At the end of the program in October, Pearson conducts an internal efficacy review.
Two of the five companies in the first Catalyst class--ClassOwl and Ace Learning Company--are now official Pearson Technology Partners. "The program gives them increase exposure and visibility in Pearson's products around the world," says Stepner. ClassOwl, a time management tool for schools, is now integrated with OpenClass, Pearson's learning management system.