It was an edtech entrepreneur’s dream on Wednesday at Intel’s Education Accelerator Demo Day. At the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, eight hopeful startups took the stage to show off their ideas and the progress they’ve made under the wings of one of Silicon Valley’s originals.
Now in its second year, the four-month accelerator program offers selected companies up to $100,000 from Intel Capital—in exchange for up to six percent of equity—and provides access to GSVlabs, weekly workshops and guidance from self-selected mentors like David Min (VP of Strategic Business Innovation at the Walt Disney Company) or Ronald Chandler (former CIO for the Los Angeles Unified School District).
“The idea behind doing the accelerator is that this is an opportunity for us to share with [the startups] what we know about education, but it really is also giving us a portfolio of solutions we can bring to our customers,” says Intel’s VP and General Manager of Government and Education John Galvin.
This year’s cohort, whose products range from game-based learning to AI-generated flashcards, has a lot to be excited about. The program announced that last year, participants like tutoring app company GotIt! raised more than $9 million in a recent Series A round, and handheld wireless sensor company PocketLab is now teaming up with Google to bring the pocket-sized lab equipment to the Google Science Journal.
Big and small, patent and beta—here’s a round-up of Intel Education Accelerator’s latest protégés:
PrepFlash: Based in College Station, Tex., PrepFlash takes some of the tediousness out of studying by writing flashcards for learners. The tool, which recently surpassed more than one million flashcards, uses artificial intelligence to generate multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and other quiz-based flashcards from user-uploaded PDFs, URLs, or even photos of handwritten notes or textbooks taken using the PrepFlash mobile app. It’s the eighth startup project for CEO Cy Megnin, who’s raised $500,000 for the company so far. It’s free for students, but the software isn’t free for all—teachers must pay $7 a year and Pro users pay $29 annually.
KiraKira: The all-female team at KiraKira has a big goal in mind: get more girls interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). The San Francisco-based startup provides a gamified platform where girls can learn engineering through online videos taught by other girls around the world. Users can create virtual models of things like bracelets, sunglasses or even surfboards, which they can then order to have printed at KiraKira’s one-month-old 3D printing studio. CEO Suz Somersall says the vision is to someday make a “virtual Etsy” where guests learn, make and sell their own designs. Currently in beta testing, KiraKira plans to begin raising a $2 million seed round in January—the same time it’s planning to launch a mobile app. Classes are free and so are users’ first two printed pieces.
Sutori: Formerly known as HSTRY, storytelling platform Sutori might not have seen its full potential at the start—but Intel sure did. What originally began as an online tool for history students to build free virtual timelines soon caught the attention of teachers and big media organization like BBC. Historian and Sutori CEO Thomas Ketchell says it’s been “amazing to see [Sutori] spread outside of the history classroom.” The Boston-based startup, which is currently raising a $2 million seed round, touched Galvin personally as well. “[Sutori] appealed to me from the very beginning… I studied literature in college, and had I had a tool like this, it would have changed the way I learned.” Sutori’s free version comes with 200 student projects per teacher, and unlimited subscriptions—which come with offline use—can be purchased for $99.
Learnmetrics: Chicago-based Learnmetrics offers districts what CEO Julian Miller likes to call a “GPS” for educators’ and administrators’ goals and outcomes. The company’s platform gets rid of the need for schools to make their own data systems or rely on multiple products to perform data analysis. Instead, Learnmetrics aggregates data that a district might have on, for example, student performance and translates the information into actionable metrics. Miller, a former teacher and administrator, has been selling the product with his 15-person team for nearly five years now. Learnmetrics has raised $2 million in seed rounds so far from investors like Social Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Impact Engine and Intel Capital. Districts can sign up for a flat per-school fee or on a seat-needed basis, which typically ranges from $100 to $2500.
SAM labs: Lego lovers behold, the next generation of building. SAM sells a patented “smart construction” kit that lets kids build using physical hardware that they can control, illuminate or make sounds with by connecting wireless blocks to the SAM Space app. Based in London, SAM’s 28-person team raised $4.5 million in a seed round led by Imperial Innovations last February, and CEO Joachim Horn says the company is now raising new funds in a Series A round. SAM’s tools, blocks and other hardware kits are available for retail worldwide. Kits range from $139 to $199, and individual blocks and motors can be purchased for between $33 and $45.
Immersed Games: “All games are inherently learning. Even in Mario, if you die, you have to re-strategize. We want to redirect that learning,” says Victor Matos, lead game designer at Immersed Games. The Gainesville, Fla.-based startup is building online game worlds akin to World of Warcraft and other deep-dive games, but where users are introduced to Next Generation Science Standards and real-life learning opportunities. CEO Lindsey Tropf says the company has plans to expand beyond its middle-school ecology content, and is pitching for a $3 million seed fund to do so. The model costs $8 a month and their first game, Tyoto Ecology, generated $115,000 within six months of its release via the online gaming platform Steam.
Comprend.io: Even as new technology and tools trickle into classrooms across the U.S., report cards have by and large stayed the same over the last century—there’s not always good feedback, and it’s too late once bad grades get in. But entrepreneurs behind Comprend.io think they’ve come up with a solution—a text analysis tool that provides automated feedback on a learner’s notes and then aggregates that data for instructors. And although Comprend.io’s co-founders Dan Nash and Sean Hookano-Briel initially targeted K-12 schools for the tool, it seems the corporate sector, which has increasingly turned to MOOCs to train employees, has taken a liking to it even more. Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Comprend.io prices on a by-school or company basis.
FlashGrade: Ask a teacher what their least favorite part of their job is and more likely than not, you’ll hear grading papers. FlashGrade, a D.C.-based automated grading software company, is trying to ease that pain. Using a patented scanner technology, the tool allows teachers to grade assignments in seconds using a mobile device or tablet. The company has so far partnered with The Princeton Review, Toshiba Business Solutions and Powerschool. It’s been used for more than 2.5 million assessments, and is on track to hit 4 million in 2017. CEO Andrew Mason says the company is working to build beyond multiple choice grading and hopes to soon provide a tool that can read and assess handwritten assignments. FlashGrade generally charges between 5 to 25 cents per test.