AI and Personalized Learning That Goes Beyond Tech: The Latest Camelback...


AI and Personalized Learning That Goes Beyond Tech: The Latest Camelback Ventures Cohort

By Tina Nazerian     Oct 3, 2018

AI and Personalized Learning That Goes Beyond Tech: The Latest Camelback Ventures Cohort
Aaron Walker, founder and CEO of Camelback Ventures.

Aaron Walker, founder and CEO of an incubator based in New Orleans called Camelback Ventures, believes there’s talent everywhere. That’s why his organization doesn’t make entrepreneurs accepted to its fellowship move anywhere. They can stay where they are, and continue to build their business. Each accepted organization gets $40,000 for mentoring and coaching.

“We think that the residency requirement is prohibitive for a lot of people,” Walker told EdSurge, explaining that it’s particularly prohibitive for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds. He added that he thinks it’s better for organizations to continue growing in the communities they’re already rooted in.

Participants in the venture’s fourth cohort did come together in person on Thursday, though, to present their work at a theater in Oakland.

Artificial intelligence was a trend among the for-profits that presented. Meanwhile, the schools that shared their ideas focused on student-centered learning and models that honor the differences in students and “think about personalized learning beyond just technology.”

This was the venture’s most-competitive cohort. Less than three percent of those who applied made it (531 people applied, and only 13 were selected).

Here are those 13 organizations, and what they hope to accomplish.


A platform that uses AI, madeBOS wants to help people in low-wage jobs demonstrate their talents to employers. It’s only available for people whose employers have signed on to the service, and employees start by taking a questionnaire. Then madeBOS recommends career paths, such as marketing, and shows them a roadmap to get there along with active job listings and job listings that are closed but “potentially available” at a later time in that field, according to founder and CEO Martha Hernandez.

Employers on the platform, meanwhile, get to learn about the potential of their current employees.

“For the most part, employees are already leaving because they do not see opportunity, and managers do not have the time to sit with each one and support their development and learning,” Hernandez argued. She continued, “madeBos addresses that and increases the chances of employees who are typically overlooked in understanding how to move up.”

The company, which is based in Oakland, counts LinkedIn and PathSource among its competitors.


Many scientific articles go unread, and many are never analyzed across disciplines, said Nicole Bishop, the CEO and founder of Quartolio. She thinks that’s a problem—many treatments and cures that could be developed from such research might never see the light of day.

Quartolio wants to go beyond an internet search. It’s a cloud based platform that uses library science and AI so researchers can “discover, manage and curate research” in a single location. Those singular locations are called “folios.” They are a collection of all the documents the company has compiled on a single scientific concept. For example, a folio on Cushing Syndrome would gather information such as medical trials and patents on the hormonal disorder.

Cognitive ToyBox

This company’s CEO, Tammy Kwan, said its touch-screen games focused on early childhood assessment can help teachers uncover insights about their students.

The tool has won funding from a variety of sources including the National Science Foundation, the Robinhood Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund.

During the demo, Kwan told the audience that teachers can assess students on language and literacy, math and social emotional development.

Civic Eagle

Civic Eagle wants to make it easier for people working in the policy realm to discover, track and analyze legislation. Every state’s legislative database is decentralized, said CEO Damola Ogundipe.

Using AI, Civic Eagle pulls in legislation from all 50 states and the federal government.

Science with Sophie

Sophia Shrand uses comedy to make science fun. “We don’t have a real-life, human, female science role model doing science on TV. Until now,” Shrand said.

She plays a series of characters and shows a variety of experiments on her YouTube channel, which has more than 1,500 subscribers. The target audience is girls ages 6 to 14. “It really fills a void in science communication by showing a strong female role model to all genders,” she argues.


Employers need effective, inclusive management practices to retain millennials of color, said Yulkendy Valdez, co-founder and managing partner of Forefront.

Forefront offers in-person trainings, ranging from teaching companies about implicit bias to helping them recruit better. Valdez said Forefront currently operates as a consultancy, and focuses on leadership development. However, it hopes to build an online content library of trainings for employers.

Creative Reaction Lab

Many communities aren’t able to live long, happy lives, said Antionette Carroll, the founder and CEO of nonprofit Creative Reaction Lab. She cited research that every seven minutes, a black person dies prematurely due to discrimination.

That’s something that hits close to home for Carroll. Her 14-year-old brother was a victim of gun violence, killed by a 13-year-old over an iPhone.

She wants to change the system that led to her brother’s death. Creative Reaction Lab works with communities and institutions to address racial and health inequities. It wants to create a movement of “equity designers” through youth programs, leadership development and educational advocacy tools.

Oppression and inequality happen by design, she argued, and that means the systems can be redesigned.


This non-profit wants to support immigrants and undocumented students in K-12 schools. Vanessa Luna, the co-founder and CPO, personally understands the challenges such students face. A “DACA-mented” educator, she said she saw students suffer injustices and lack of support due to their immigration status. In particular, she thinks school districts need to have a plan in place for when ICE raids occur, as they did in a recent incident in Tennessee.

ImmSchools trains educators on how to support undocumented students, runs workshops with students and families on their immigration and educational rights and advocates for immigrant-friendly policies in K-12 education.

Raheem AI

In 2007, Brandon Anderson lost his partner to police violence at a routine traffic stop. He created Raheem AI, a Facebook Messenger chatbot, so that people can anonymously provide feedback on their interactions with police officers—both good and bad. That feedback goes to a dashboard, and the hope is that cities will use it to design strategies that curb police violence.

“A lack of clear, actionable data continues to enable police violence across the country,” said Anderson, the nonprofit’s founder and CEO.

The organization ran a pilot in San Francisco and Berkeley last year. In the next couple of months, it will do a soft launch in Oakland. It hopes to run the service in all 50 states by 2020.

I Dream Academy DC

Janine Gomez, the co-founder and head of school at I Dream Academy DC, said the school she’s building will give students personalized learning paths “based on their interests, passions and dreams.”

“Sadly a child’s learning experience in the US is still impacted by race and class, with the more-creative, inquiry based classroom reserved for the wealthy,” she said. She wants to change that.

Her school combines “the best practices of Montessori, expeditionary learning and project based learning to empower 4-13 year olds,” Gomez said. As part of that, students will get “Dream Time,” inspired by Google’s 20 percent time policy, where they can work on projects they’re passionate about. They will also get customized learning plans that incorporate social and emotional learning.

Starting this month, Dream Academy DC will test its model at a partner school, in a pilot expected to run until February 2019. It hopes to open its doors to students in fall 2020.

Lyceum Schools

Founder Byron Arthur said what will make Lyceum Schools different from other schools is that it is centered around “debate, deliberation and dialogue”—whether a student it’s in a science class or English class. The school will be for young boys in New Orleans. According to Arthur, the school will likely run a four week pilot in New Orleans next summer, and is likely to open in August 2020.

“It is time to find places that are going to protect and inspire young black men,” he said.

The Social Justice School

Founder Myron Long said diverse schools exist, but they aren’t always integrated. He said waitlists are long for schools in DC that are integrated and have innovative programing.

Based in Washington, D.C., The Social Justice School will teach middle schoolers how to tackle real world issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, using a curriculum “infused by social justice.”

The school ran a four week pilot in July funded by NewSchools Venture Fund. It plans on opening to 50 fifth graders and 50 sixth graders in 2023.

Visions Performing Arts College Prep

After school program “Visions Performing Arts Company” is working toward creating a 6th-12th school called “Visions Performing Arts College Prep” that’s dedicated to African and Latin X performing arts. The school ran a pilot funded by NewSchools Venture Fund this July. It wants to open in fall 2020. According to founder and executive director Auset Ali, the after school program will still exist once the school opens. Both are based in Aurora, Colorado.

Ali said she believes in a curriculum infused with the arts—for instance, in science class, students would write a rap about bones and muscles.

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