coursesmart bright & shiny
BRIGHT & SHINY: BenchPrep, formerly Watermelon Express. Based in Chicago with seed funding from Lightbank. Test prep is a tantalizing area for edtech startups: students already spend money for everything from books (cheap at $25 a pop) to expensive tutors (name your price) to pump up their scores, so the market is real. What's unknown is what tools will help them the most--and at what price. Knewton has made big moves in this area with its adaptive engine (and is also working with four colleges to help students gear up for math classes). Knewton's SAT prep package runs $150. By contrast, BenchPrep puts existing books (such as those developed by McGrawHill) into a cross-platform environment, charges a tad bit more ($25 for software instead of $20 for a book) and offers up analytics and social media support (like chat and study groups). And of course, BenchPrep doesn't have to stick with test prep; any textbook is fair game. That puts BenchPrep most directly up against the likes of Kno, Inkling, and CourseSmart, to name a few. Now it's all about implementation, implementation, implementation.