Blog post by Julia Mongeau
The five members of LearnLaunch Accelerator’s 2016 BREAKTHROUGH Program cohort will pitch their companies to strategic partners, investors and other education professionals at Demo Day on Wednesday June 15 at District Hall in South Boston.
According to Operations Director Asad Butt, Demo Day almost serves as a “graduation ceremony” for the 2016 BREAKTHROUGH Program companies. Demo Day provides an opportunity for the cohort companies to engage with investors, prove traction and continue networking.
The cohort companies, Chalk Talk, Cram Fighter, EduMetrics, Riipen, and Zulama, went through an intensive four-week session with LearnLaunch Accelerator leading up to Demo Day. BREAKTHROUGH differs from LearnLaunch’s traditional Accelerator Program, because these companies are more mature edtech startups and require targeted assistance to “fine-tune” their business and fundraising strategies.
Demo Day is an invitation-only event, during which the five companies will give a seven-minute presentation on their products. For this Demo Day, LearnLaunch has also invited back their alumni cohorts, twelve of which will return for Demo Day to give two-minute updates on the status of their companies since leaving the program.
When selecting the cohort companies, LearnLaunch looks for five essential criteria. Specifically, LearnLaunch considers: 1) how unique is the product; 2) how big is the market; 3) is this really affecting education; 4) how well does the team work together; and 5) scalability.
Though Demo Day is the culmination of the BREAKTHROUGH session, Butt explains that the “relationship with LearnLaunch never ends.” Some of the 2016 companies were founded in response to personal experiences and the desire to optimize technology to support education.
Amit Mathew, the founder of Cram Fighter, watched his wife study for her medical board exams and decided there had to be a better way to manage and structure study time. Cram Fighter thus creates personalized study plans for students to help them prepare for exams in an efficient and effective way.
As of now, Cram Fighter’s target audience is students in pre-med, nursing and finance. Other exams are still in the early stages of development. Cram Fighter is popular among med school students. For the most part, Cram Fighter reaches its target audience by word of mouth. Cram Fighter utilizes campus representatives, part of its CampusEuro program, to attract users as well. As for Demo Day, Mathew looks forward to “start having some interesting discussions.” As Cram Fighter is still an early revenue stage, Mathew hopes to start a conversation about Cram Fighter’s potential.
Nikki Navta, founder of Zulama, is the mother of two teenage boys who love playing video games. Navta saw an opportunity to “turn a passion for gaming into an educational experience.” Zulama is a gaming design program targeted towards middle school and high school students. Zulama offers opportunities with game design, digital art, programming, mobile apps and screenwriting, all of which give students the practical and applicable skills necessary for success in today’s workplace.
“Every job now has some component of technology,” Navta said. However, as she points out, school systems are the least prepared to teach this kind of technology. Zulama addresses that need by “giving schools a way to really engage students with cutting edge technology,” Navta said. Navta, like Mathew, looks to Demo Day as an opportunity to get the word out and raise awareness about Zulama’s potential impact.
Chalk Talk is an online platform used to optimize student learning in Math and English, and is measured by SAT exam scores. While its primary focus is the Middle East and North Africa regions, Chalk Talk is accessible globally and addresses the individual learning needs of each student.
Boston-based, EduMetrics enhances the way schools gather data over the year, then creates reports for school administrators to help determine where improvements and attention is needed. EduMetrics’ solutions collect real-time data without interrupting class time. These solutions gauge the student experience and the data informs schools’ decision-making.
Riipen moved from Vancouver, Canada to Boston to join the Breakthrough program. Riipen connects students with opportunities in professional fields so that upon graduation they have garnered the necessary skills and experience to launch their careers. Riipen allows students to get professional experience in various industries, while also helping companies tap into millennial insight and talent for the growth of their business.
LearnLaunch Alumni scheduled to appear include: Mary Ellen Belliveau (CEO, Knowledge To Practice), Monica Brady-Myerov (CEO, Listen Current), Sheela Sethuraman (CEO, CueThink), Paul Crockett (CEO, Authess), Thomas Ketchell, (CEO, Hstry), Dave Meyers (CEO, TeachersConnect), Melissa Corto (CEO, Education Modified), Nick Zeckets (CEO, Quadwrangle), Marissa Di Pasquale (CEO, Cashtivity), Leonid Tunik (CEO Empow Studios), Pam Demetroulakos (COO, uConnect), Ira Sockowitz (CEO, Learning Games Studios).
Demo Day will take place June 15 at District Hall in the Seaport. If you are an accredited investor and you’d like to attend, please email Asad Butt.