Guest Post by Britt Hansen, English Teacher, Duxbury Public Schools
Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, presented a message for his audience of investors, founders and entrepreneurs at his Across Boundaries Conference keynote —find a “clear, simple guiding light” that will drive your company. For Cengage, that guiding light is a student. As CEO of a company that spent 150 years publishing textbooks, Hansen’s global company has shifted to a digital engagement platform for students, educators and employees since he took the helm in 2012. An education and technology company, Cengage’s mission is to drive student engagement and create more efficient, affordable products in what has become a personalized digital learning environment. Hansen spoke to his company’s focus on finding ways to help students solve the time-management, confidence and affordability dilemmas they encounter while in school. What was most clear in Hansen’s keynote was his passion for building products that improve student learning needs in both K-12 and higher education.
As a company that knows how to bring about tremendous change in a massive, fragmented market, Hansen addressed the largest challenge facing many small EdTech companies once they have developed an excellent product: scale. In turn, he focused on the need for strategic partnerships that will help smaller, innovative companies to increase market share and impact students in the dynamic EdTech marketplace. He ended his inspiring keynote with a call to action – “Come talk to us if you have passion and want to scale.”
In fact, some companies are already making headway in scaling their innovative products. Five growth-stage companies that showcased their ambitions to grow included: WriteSteps, Quality Interactions, Kaymbu, CourseStorm, and CareAcademy. With the help of LearnLaunch Accelerator, these five cohorts are on track to increase market share within the next year and are poised to have a greater impact on the education industry as whole.
A former educator turned entrepreneur, Suzanne Klein, showcased WriteSteps, a common-core aligned grammar and writing curriculum for K-5. A point emphasized throughout the conference was the importance of building student writing skills, regardless of the career they will eventually enter. WriteSteps speaks to that demand by laying a foundation for strong communication skills at an early age. The curriculum provides teachers with lesson plans and professional development that will strengthen student engagement and learning in the writing process. The curriculum cuts the need for whole group instruction by 60%, doubling teacher time for personalized instruction. Already used in 48 states and 6 countries, Klein’s innovative and streamlined writing program is poised for growth in the year ahead and sure to address the need for strong communication skills in the 21st-century workforce.
Another startup, Quality Interactions, spearheaded by Michele Courton Brown, is taking on adult health literacy by providing e-learning courses that train healthcare professionals to communicate with and care for diverse patient populations. Seeking to expand their customer base to urgent care centers, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes and physician practices, it is clear that the company is prepared to have a greater impact on the lives of diverse patient populations as well as health outcomes for the fastest growing segment in the healthcare industry.
Kin Lo’s Kaymbu is another company solving problems, and in this case for parents who seek to document their children’s early years. Based in Boston, Kaymbu’s founder recognized the safety-concern surrounding traditional social media platforms for parents and schools. His solution is a secure platform that allows educators and parents to document and share visual images. Not only does the platform connect and engage parents with the classroom, but it can also serve as a visual assessment tool for teachers. In a world dominated by visual images, Kaymbu is ripe for growth in both school and home communities, even providing a pathway to connect the two.
CourseStorm is capitalizing on the life-long learning market which comprises 2x enrollment than that all of traditional education combined. In fact, a large focus throughout the conference was the art of life-long learning. Co-Founder & CEO, Brian Rahill’s platform provides online class registration for this massive market. Simple to use, CourseStorm saves time for companies seeking to manage enrollment and market their courses in an affordable way that also helps them to scale.
With baby-boomers aging, one of the fastest growing segments in the job market is home-health care. CareAcademy, founded and run by Helen Adeosun, seeks to help by training home health aides and companies. By educating caregivers on how to provide excellent care, CareAcademy has been recognized by the AARP Foundation and Aging 2.0 for its help in supporting such a booming, and necessary, part of the healthcare industry.
With Michael Hansen’s passionate keynote, chronicling his company’s transformation as an agent of change in the education space, it is clear that the five growth-stage startups, with the help of LearnLaunch Accelerator, are finding ways to make the lives of students better while increasing market share along the way. While each of these CEOs has built cutting edge product that helps to solve a problem for their customer, what they each possess, above all, is a passion for the impact they will make.