Boston’s LearnLaunch Unveils First Batch, As EdTech Accelerators Continue To Proliferate

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Startup accelerators have gone “niche” over the last year. Instead of simply copy and pasting the Y Combinator model ad nauseam, incubators have started to seep into verticals, tailoring their programs to particular industries. Education technology has been enjoying more attention from entrepreneurs and investors of late, and following suit, a new generation of EdTech accelerators have begun to pop up across the country.

Even some of the oldest names in educational publishing, like Kaplan and Pearson, have been hopping on the bandwagon. Earlier this year, Boston became the latest city to get its own dedicated EdTech accelerator with the launch of LearnLaunchX, founded by the organizers of an education conference that goes by the same name (without the “X”).

The accelerator, along with fellow Boston-based accelerator Exponential Boston, are on a mission to help further Boston’s development as a startup ecosystem and help turn Beantown into the capital of the EdTech movement. The program itself has a similar composition to most accelerators: Selected founding teams take part in a three-month residential program in Boston, where they’re exposed to other entrepreneurs hacking away on their EdTech ideas, attend weekly meetings with mentors, advisors and experts and work their way through the accelerator’s “curriculum” (i.e. workshops).

Companies spend the first month, according to LearnLaunch, testing their assumptions and developing plans and during the second month they begin working more closely with their mentors on “company-specific issues, such as customer interaction, user interface design and product development.” Founding teams then spend the third month developing an action plan for launching their product and raising money.

For participating in this EdTech Bootcamp, startups receive roughly $18K in seed funding, along with four months of office space, mentorship, hosting (from AWS) and strategic support. In sum, LearnLaunch says that it will be providing $350K to its first batch of startups.

And to that point: This week marked the launch of the Boston EdTech accelerator’s inaugural batch. Eight startups were chosen to participate in LearnLaunch’s first class, which will run through the summer with a “Demo Day” planned for September.

Below you’ll find a brief introduction to the first eight startups to join LearnLaunch. More at LearnLaunchX’s website here. Let us know what you think.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 12.02.42 PMListen Edition: Founded by public radio reporter Monica Brady-Myerov, Listen Edition curates public radio stories and builds custom lesson plans and activities for the classroom. Lesson plans, for example, include class activities, homework, links to additional resources and assessment evidence. The goal is to foster critical thinking and listening skills, while providing fun, entertaining content that align with the Common Core.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 11.51.02 AMCreatebiz: An online business school and professional development network for the “new creative economy.” Createbiz delivers affordable and practical, instructor-led online courses and programs designed for the lifestyle of the mobile creative professional. The startup proposes to “teach creative entrepreneurs from small and medium businesses how to get new customers, increase cash flow and generate more success in business.” Createbiz was ounded by Dave Kusek, former CEO of the successful online music school Berkleemusic.com.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 11.54.30 AMGradeable: Developed by a team from MIT and Harvard, Gradeable is an assessment and feedback tool that helps teachers give students smarter, faster and reduces their workload. It uses optical character recognition to handle grading for paper-based assessments, whether that be in written answer or multiple choice formats and includes simple, easy-to-use reporting.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 11.55.05 AMCognii: Using powerful natural language processing technology, Cognii enables automatic assessment of students’ essay answers. Cognii helps learning service providers create personalized and engaging learning environments based on students’ written responses to open-ended questions.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 12.03.56 PMEmpow Learning: Transformative experiences that empower young learners to create and build using technology, to discover their superpowers, and to make lasting contributions to their own futures and to the world around them. Empow is a successful STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) afterschool and summer program engaging kids in grades 4-10, which is poised to grow to new communities and regions.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 11.57.57 AMCountdown: A planning tool for creating Common Core-aligned instruction that allows teachers and districts to map standards by day across the school year, link curricular resources, share calendars, manage changes and create a record of what is taught. Countdown improves pacing, increases the effectiveness of co-teaching and supports standards-based teaching and learning.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 11.58.54 AMeduCanon: Powerful, easy-to-use tools to create on-line direct instruction that links videos, assessments and student interaction, and lets teachers quickly identify and track students’ grasp of concepts. Created by teachers, for teachers.

Intellify Learning: Developed by LearnLaunchX entrepreneur-in-residence Chris Vento, former CTO of Blackboard, WebCT and Cengage, these guys are still in stealth mode. So, for now, all we know is that Intellify wants to “provide a standards-based instrumentation framework for online course developers and schools, curriculum and learning designers, and ed tech application developers” … and that its “cloud-delivered data and analytics” aim to help schools refine online learning experiences.