An interview with Ben Grimley, Co-Founder & CEO of Speak Agent
What traction do you have so far?
Last school year was our first full year in market. Over the summer 2019 we started to see scale-up orders from SY 2018-2019 pilots. We’re now serving more than 500 teachers and 25,000 students in over 100 schools and are on track to receive over $300,000 in SY 2019-2020 orders by the end of the calendar year.
What is the story and inspiration behind starting Speak Agent?
As former teachers, we became frustrated by 25 years of stagnating student performance. Only one-third of students — and one in 20 English Learners — are proficient in math, reading, and science. We deep-dived to figure out what was causing this problem.
The research shows that diverse learners are hitting a wall because they lack the specialized language needed to truly understand the curriculum content. To address this issue, we designed a product around research-based teaching and learning strategies. We leveraged research partnerships with Digital Promise, WestEd and other experts to develop best practices.
What is the unmet market need or challenge that Speak Agent is addressing?
Speak Agent is a digital teaching platform that accelerates content-based language acquisition for students. There are currently no other products on the market that are as effective in doing so. Other products lack a robust language dimension and fail to integrate language with the classroom curriculum. Speak Agent’s close connection to the curriculum adds value by making the learning process more effective and less burdensome for teachers.
How does your company solve the proposed problem and why you’re the team to solve this problem?
Speak Agent is a research-based platform. According to a full-year study sponsored by the National Science Foundation, using Speak Agent for just 30 minutes per week can accelerate mastery of STEM and reading concepts by more than 200%. Many solutions work great in a controlled environment but fail in real-world classrooms. We were able to develop a more effective, flexible and adaptive solution than our competitors because our leadership team has deep expertise in both education technology and classroom teaching.
Why are you participating in the LearnLaunch Accelerator? Why did you choose this program?
We aim to leverage the Accelerator partners’ and mentors’ expertise to better develop our growth strategy, long-term scalability plan, and to refine our business model. The strategic relationship with ETS and other cohort participants will also be valuable for us to grow within the edtech hub. We have a lot to learn to increase our knowledge of learning measurement and analytics. This can enable us to construct a feedback cycle that connects instruction, assessment, and intervention.