Blog post by Julia Mongeau
The number one city in America for innovation proved worthy of the title this week at LearnLaunch Accelerator’s fifth Demo Day.
Five cohort companies, Riipen (CEO Richard Tuck), Cram Fighter (CEO Amit Mathew), EduMetrics (CEO Bill Koteff), Chalk Talk (CEO Mohannad Arbaji), and Zulama (CEO Nikki Navta), sparked conversation at District Hall in Boston’s Seaport area about the future of education and technology’s role. Each company offered innovative solutions for the field of education, including standardized test prep, study strategies, experiential learning opportunities, game design and data-driven solutions for student performance.
Notable audience members included Rory Cuddyer, the start-up manager for the City of Boston. Representing Mayor Marty Walsh, Cuddyer spoke of the City’s pride and confidence in LearnLaunch.
“They are leading the charge in Boston to create an edtech cluster,” Cuddyer said.
But as LearnLaunch Managing Director Liam Pisano said, “This is not only a Boston story.”
According to Pisano, one third of applications to the accelerator come from outside of the United States. The international reach was present at this year’s Demo Day. Skyping in from Toronto was Mohannad Arbaji, founder and CEO of Chalk Talk. Arbaji’s product helps students from outside of the United States perform better on standardized tests while simultaneously helping them get better GPAs.
Top students at schools outside of the U.S. are not getting into American universities because they do not have adequate help to prepare them for standardized exams. Chalk Talk thus delivers comprehensive study programs to increase students standardized test scores. Operating under the knowledge that no two students learn the same way, nor should locale negatively impact educational opportunities, Chalk Talk paves the way for student success and access to quality education.
Vancouver based Riipen introduced its experiential learning platform with an anecdote. Co-founder Dana Stephenson told the story of a college graduate, Scott, who lives in his parent’s basement and works at a coffee shop. Despite the college degree, Scott lacked professional experience and employable skills.
Enter Riipen, an experiential education platform that connects companies to students to enhance their professional skills, while simultaneously building the company’s brand and business. As Stephenson said “schools need to stay relevant and competitive,” and they can do so by bringing classroom experiences and projects to the professional world.
While internships offer similar experiential learning opportunities, Stephenson pointed out the stark lack of internships; that is, 1 million internships in North America for 25 million students. Riipen can fill the gap and give its students access to numerous professional opportunities, without the hassle of the resume-interview process.
A common theme throughout the evening was the need to move from the old to the new, the inefficient to the efficient. Boston-based Cram Fighter, founded by Amit Mathew, offers a switch from the paper and pencil study method to web-friendly, personalized study plans for university classes and high stakes exams.
“Imagine a future where students use dynamic study plans to reach their goals,” Mathew said.
By creating a checklist of daily tasks, Cram Fighter helps medical school students, as well as pre-med, nursing and finance students, stay on track and accomplish their study goals. The company soon plans on expanding to serve students throughout higher education.
From from Pittsburth, Zulama integrates game design into middle school and high school curriculum. Its objective is to give students the skills necessary to succeed in a world where “technology touches every point of our lives,” CEO Nikki Navta said.
Navta noted that schools are the least equipped to teach students technology for two reasons: 1) technology curriculum; 2) shortage of computer science teachers.
Zulama addresses both of these problems and them some, offering a product that is unmatched by its competitors.
With plans to tap into new markets, including elementary schools, Zulama has already exhibited success—and loyalty. According to Navta, Zulama has a 90 percent customer retention rate.
While the aforementioned cohort companies solved for specific, academic needs, Boston-based EduMetrics prioritizes the impact of a school’s social climate on student behavior and performance.
“Positive social climate drives academic success,” CEO of EduMetrics Bill Koteff said.
The “key differentiation” between EduMetrics’ solutions and the outdated pen and paper survey is the comprehensive results. As Koteff explains, EduMetrics’ real-time data produces a “movie” about what goes on during the school year, while older methods only give a “snapshot.”
In the fall, EduMetrics will also launch an anti-bullying trial, looking to tackle a long-standing detriment to education. 160,000 students don’t go to school because of bullying. Thus, EduMetrics can aggregate data collected over a year to help schools target where they can improve on their school’s social environment and ensure the success and well-being of all their students.
Demo Day presentations concluded with brief updates from LearnLaunch Accelerator’s alumni: 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).
The evening did not end after presentations. Invited guests filtered through District Hall, talking more with the 2016 cohort companies and alumni, continuing the conversation about technology’s role in shaping the future of education.