Test Prep Giant Kaplan Launches A New EdTech Accelerator In NYC, With TechStars Providing The Bankroll

With early-stage capital front-loading the EdTech investment spectrum, it’s a good time to start an education business. (Even if investors are still wary about doling out larger rounds, but ssshhh on that bit.) Of course, when it comes to education, many entrepreneurs are still green. It’s not as easy as it may seem to learn the landscape and understand how best to maneuver lengthy sales cycles and create products teachers and students will actually use.

That’s why we saw a glut of dedicated EdTech incubators and accelerators pop up last year — a trend which has continued in 2013 as the big names in education have begun to take notice. This week, Kaplan, a familiar name in education became the latest to join the growing cavalcade of EdTech accelerators, as the 70-year-old test prep company, teamed up with TechStars to launch the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator.

For some perspective on how quickly the landscape is changing for education startups, if one were to travel back in time to the ancient era of 2011, one would only find a couple of lone accelerators (like Imagine K-12 and Startl/DreamIt) holding down the fort. In just the last 12 to 18 months, that list has grown considerably, as EdTech entrepreneurs now have a choice between Socratic Labs, LearnLaunch, EdSeeds, New Schools in New Orleans, and the Learning Accelerator — to name a few. (Check out Edsurge’s nifty map here.)

The old guard of education, which represents some of the largest companies in the industry (like Kaplan) have begun to realize that, in order to survive, they need to invest in technology. While some will inevitably fall thanks to archaic (and inertia-defined) models, education stalwarts like the 90-plus-year-old publishing giant McGraw-Hill are trying to pave the way forward as the industry transitions from print to digital and augmented learning experiences.

Pearson, too, has even announced that it’s ready to get into the accelerator game as well. Not all of them will be able to buy their way back into relevancy, but, on the whole, this effort is a net positive for the incumbents and a win-win for education and EdTech startups.

For Kaplan, continuing to cultivate new innovations in education technology is critical to the future of the company and the industry at large, Kaplan CEO Andy Rosen said recently. With its new accelerator, the company will be casting a wide net in its search for promising founders and business concepts — any startup or team that “harnesses the latest learnings from the fields of science, instructional design, and technology to support the development of highly effective, evidence-based learning products,” to use the company’s words.

Over the next few months, Kaplan and TechStars will select ten education startups to participate in its three-month mentoring and business development program, which will kick of officially on June 18th. Interestingly, Kaplan won’t be taking direct ownership or control of its chosen startups; instead, TechStars is providing the funding and will invest $20K in each founding team.

This means that startups in the accelerator program get access to help and resources from Kaplan with no strings attached, TechStars founder David Cohen tells TechCrunch. “This is pretty powerful for EdTech startups,” he continues, “and we’re committed to supporting this … TechStars is a long-term investor.”

As to those aforementioned resources, the accelerator will be providing seed capital from TechStars, along with the requisite mentorship from top entrepreneurs, investors, experts and Kaplan executives, co-working space and a Demo Day, which aims to help connect teams to investors. In terms of what Kaplan brings to the table, specifically, the company says that it will provide its startups with access to market insight and a feedback loop from its base of one million active students and 10,000+ instructors, as well as the ability to interface with decision-makers as part of Kaplan’s relationship with 300+ U.S. school districts and 20+ university partners.

The company says it will also be providing access to its Learning Science Group, which will provide instructional design resources to help founders get on the right path. In addition, entrepreneurs will be able to tap into a mentor network which includes people like Andy Rosen, David Cohen, Washington Post CEO Don Graham, veteran investor and Foundry Group Managing Director Brad Feld, along with EdTech startup founders like Jose Ferreira of Knewton and Udemy’s Eren Bali.

The accelerator will make its home at its headquarters in New York City’s West Village and entrepreneurs can begin applying now. Applications are due by April 14th, with the program beginning on June 18th and culminating at Demo Day on September 12th.

For more details on the program and application criteria, click here.

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