Back in Session: Kaplan EdTech Accelerator’s Second Class Targets ‘New Economy’ Skills
School is about to start again at the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator. Now in its second year, the three-month program will prepare twelve teams hailing from the U.S., Canada, Iceland and India to scale their products in the global education market.
Over 500 companies (45% from outside the U.S.) applied for a spot. For Edward Hanapole, Kaplan’s Chief Information Officer and director of this year’s program, having to choose 12 “was an almost impossible task.” One criteria that made the vetting process a bit easier was an emphasis on “the amount of passion in the team and how long the founders have been together.”
Another was timing. “A lot of times there are great ideas but in some cases they are just a bit too early. Based on what we [Kaplan] have learned from working in this industry, we know not all great ideas have viable opportunities,” he tells EdSurge.
The ideas that Kaplan finds in vogue tackle STEM and coding (CreatorBox, reKode); storytelling (Story To College); data literacy (TuvaLabs); classroom budget planning (ClassWallet); brain science (Branching Minds), language learning (Cognotion); product efficacy (Lea(r)n); resource and content distribution (Edvisor.io), robo-teaching assistant (RobotsLAB) and workforce skills (SmartOn).
Three of these eleven hail from abroad: reKode (Reykjavik); Edvisor.io (Toronto) and SmartOn (Bangalore). Four (Branching Minds, Cognotion, reKode and Story To College) have female CEOs. And all the tools they’re building, says Hanapole, are focused less on covering just traditional curriculum (like math and reading) and more on “new economy” skills “that improve career or capability-centric outcomes.”
Joining these eleven is a conspicuously older student: Grockit, the online test prep platform founded in 2007 and acquired by Kaplan in July 2013. “We’ve allowing internal organizations like Grockit to go through this process,” Hanapole tells EdSurge, “and see if we can leverage its technology platform to grow other Kaplan core businesses.”
Hanapole says this year’s program will take advantage of Kaplan’s distribution channels to help the participants set up pilots and test the market’s reception for their products. “What we didn’t do as effectively with our first cohort was to integrate their technologies with our existing product lines to provide real-world learning and feedback,” he concedes.
With the exception of Grockit, the participating startups will receive a $20,000 investment from Techstars (in exchange for 6% equity in common stock), along with a $150,000 convertible note from Kaplan. The 10 startups from the first program have cumulatively raised over $15 million following their graduation.