Here Are the 9 Higher-Ed Startups Taking off From Michelson Runway

Digital Learning

Here Are the 9 Higher-Ed Startups Taking off From Michelson Runway

By Sydney Johnson     Jun 14, 2018

Here Are the 9 Higher-Ed Startups Taking off From Michelson Runway
Startups and investors at Michelson Runway demo day.

Education technology accelerator programs are often studded with robotic kits or educational games. But the latest cohort at Michelson Runway, a startup accelerator geared towards higher-ed companies, highlights a broader approach to innovation in education. Among the offerings on display at its demo day on June 13 were a structured gap year program, a tool for pronouncing names correctly and financial lending based on academic merit.

Now in its third year, Michelson Runway offers early-stage education companies $25,000-100,000 in investment, along with legal advice, product feedback and opportunities to connect with other entrepreneurs and potential funders. The four-month program is capped with a pitch night in front of edtech investors.

Though the startups presented a wide range of ideas, Michelson Runway co-founder Phil Kim said what connected them all is an effort to “tackle access and equity.” The nine groups presenting Wednesday were the accelerator’s second cohort, and 14 companies have gone through the program so far. Here’s the rundown:

APL NEXTED: Founded in May 2015 by former college dean Kathleen Gibson, APL nextED aims to help manage data and workflows for accreditation compliance reporting, evaluation, promotion, professional development, recruiting, and staffing The company calls its platform a “Faculty Management Solution” (FMS), and claims to work with 45 pilot partners so far including California State University San Bernardino and University of West Florida. APL nextED is based in Valparaiso, Ind. and is asking for $250,000 of a $750,000 raise by July 2018.

GOOROO: Gooroo originally set out to be the next “Uber for tutors,” according to chief operating officer Phil Hwang. But after some shifts in its business model (and perhaps realizing the analogy with the notorious rideshare company may not be as palpable these days), the New York City-based company is now focusing efforts on creating a matching system that connects students in grades 6-12 with tutors. The company claims college undergraduates are also frequent users of the platform, and has experts in topics ranging from SAT prep to Spanish language and AP Biology. Gooroo is aiming to close a $1 million round by June 30, 2018.

MEASUREONE: Should good grades boost your chances of getting a loan? MeasureOne, a San Francisco startup and data analytics firm thinks so. Founded in 2009, the company gathers and shares data from student transcripts and uses predictive modeling to “correlate this transcript data to future performance,” the company describes. Financial institutions can then use the information to make lending decisions. The company is asking for $10 million by October 2018.

NAMECOACH: It’s graduation and you’re walking across the stage to get that long-awaited diploma and handshake. But the dean then butchers your name, and the moment ends more sour than celebratory. The issue was why in 2014 Praveen Shanbhag started NameCoach, a platform that allows schools and companies to gather and practice correct name pronunciation. Users can audio record their name pronunciation and share it in advance of events like commencement ceremonies, or before a first day of class. NameCoach claims to already work with more than 100 higher-ed customers, including the California Community College system. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup is raising $300,000 by July 2018.

NEXUSEDGE: Eddie Lin has dabbled in a number of careers. The former Wall Street banker has tried sales at Ticketmaster, marketing at Adobe, and even entertained the idea of television as a contestant on Fear Factor. Now, he’s running a startup that he and co-founder Shanti Akkineni hope will help recent graduates find the right career path sooner (and hopefully without eating copious amounts of live bees on a reality show). The company partners with institutions to give students access to video mentoring, microcredentials as well as courses on Linkedin Learning intended to supplement traditional courses. The Los Angeles-based company is asking for $365,000 as part of a $1 million raise.

OSMOSIS: If Khan Academy were a medical school, it might look like Osmosis. The Baltimore-based startup offers a web and mobile learning platform focusing specifically on lessons that train clinicians and healthcare students in anything from anatomy to neurology or psychiatry. Osmosis charges between $11 to $17 per month for its content, which is made in house. The company also offers free learning materials, largely funded by sponsored content and its subscription model. Chief Medical Officer Rishi Desai says the company produces around 15 original videos a week for more than 240,000 registered users and 25 partner institutions.

QUALIFIED: Finding the right hire can be tricky, especially for technical roles where employers need to manually vet each applicant’s coding and programming chops. It’s why San Francisco-based Qualified aims to cut down on the amount of time and money companies and institutions spend assessing technical skills with a platform that automates coding assessments and assignments. The company grew out of CEO and co-founder Nathan Doctor’s earlier project,, which teaches coding through games and challenges. Doctor claims the company has already raised more than $2 million in venture funding from Cornerstone OnDemand and Social Capital, and works with more than 300 clients including Canon and Apple.

THE WHETHER: Rain or shine, CEO Chris Motley is working to help connect career recruiters with college students through his startup, The Whether. The St. Louis, Mo.-based company aims to outdo traditional career fairs through a recruitment tool that connects students to employers and vice versa. Companies pay to receive access to students on the platform, and students can browse for employment opportunities. The Whether was the 2017 winner of the SXSW EDU startup Launch competition and has partnered with more than 500 colleges and universities. Motley said the company is looking to raise $1 million by September 2018.

YEAR ON: Most students taking a gap year are looking for a year off. But San Francisco-based Year On wants to offer students a more structured version of the soul-searching period. The program includes international volunteering and travel, skill-building and career mentoring, and students are encouraged to take courses or internships at the end of the program. The company charges $24,000 for the year-long program, $19,000 for one semester and $8,000 for a summer program. So far the company claims to have $3.4 million in net tuition revenue, and is looking to raise $3 million by August 2018.

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