On July 15th, I had the honor of attending EdTech Entrepreneur Lab Pitch Night at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. The event was the culmination of a collaboration between the New Schools Venture Fund, Teach For America, and the d.school K-12 Laboratory. The purpose of the collaboration is to create startups that are at the cross-section of education and technology, with an underlying social purpose behind them. The main focus of the night was to have the nine participant startups present their products and get feedback from a distinguished panel of judges. The panel of judges included:
- Ethan Beard, Facebook
- Neeru Khosla, CK-12 Foundation
- Dave Whorton, Tugboat Ventures
- Geoff Ralston, Imagine K12
- Mitch Kapor, Kapor Capital
- Larry Kubal, Labrador Ventures
- Farb Nivi, Grockit
- Miriam Rivera, ULU Ventures
The event has a setup similar to American Idol. At the end of each presentation, the panel of four judges gave a rating (1 worst – 5 best) for the pitch. At the end of the round the audience voted for the startup they thought gave the best presentation. The startup that got the most votes moved on to the final round.
In round one, the first five participants presented their products. The first project presented was Skoodio. The idea behind Skoodio is to use internet tools to help facilitate studio-based learning and teaching. Skoodio uses crowdsourcing for peer critiques and online portfolios to showcase students work.
Second to present was designED. DesignED is a system of charter schools for juvenile delinquents that leverage technology to help eliminate an achievement gap. The goal of the designED schools is threefold; to innovate, empower, and inspire juvenile delinquents. By creating designED schools, we are both getting troubled youths on the right track and cutting major government expenses.
Dailypage presented third. The concept behind Dailypage is to bring the same tools for online athletic training to help students learn how to read. Similar to Nike+, Dailypage is a social community built around achieving certain individual goals.
The last group of round one to present was Bay Area Innovation Hub. Bay Area Innovation Hub attempts to bring the same innovative spirit that powers industry in the Bay Area to education. The main focus of Bay Area Innovation Hub is to bring technology to disadvantaged students in the Bay Area to help level the academic playing field. Round one ended with designED moving into the final round.
Round two began with Lifie. Lifie is a tool that is meant to help give any the student to getting impactful education and career guidance through crowndsourcing. The idea is to have students submit questions and professionals give answers. Lifie hopes to level the playing field so that any student can get the advice needed to make smart decisions about their future.
Second up was Motion Spark. The goal of Motion Spark is make learning more social by having a question and answer system similar to Quora. In the process of creating this Q&A platform, Motion Spark has created a system where peers gain points for answering questions, thus moving them alone gore rapidly.
Third to present was Master Teacher Network. The concept behind master teacher network is to find the best teachers in America and allow them to share their tricks of the trade. By having these examples, teachers can emulate certain techniques to become better teachers.
The final group to present was EdJigsaw. The goal behind EdJigsaw is to leverage the internet to help families make choices for constructive out-of-school programs for children. EdJigsaw combines a Yelp-like peer review system and a recommendation engine to make a complete product. To end round two, EdJigsaw won the second group moving into the final round.
During the concluding round, the winner from round one faced the winner from round two. These teams were designED and EdJigsaw. Each of the startups got thirty seconds to give an elevator pitch about their idea. Both startups made very convincing cases for their products. Then came the live voting. At the beginning of live voting designED ran away with the lead. Toward the closing to the voting round the voting margin closed. In the end designED won by a narrow margin. No matter the winner, congratulations to all teams that competed. From the point of view of a student, it is inspiring to see people who are passionate about innovating the education field.
It was truly an honor to attend EdTech Entrepreneur Lab Pitch Night. Thank you to the New Schools Venture Fund, Teach For America, and the d.school for putting on the event. It is essential that people are able to create startups that are at the intersection of education and technology. Overall, EdTech is a fantastic collaboration and it will be excited to watch its future.