Kaplan EdTech Accelerator and Techstars launch startup program

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kaplan, Inc., the global education company and largest subsidiary of the Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC), and Techstars, the global startup accelerator, announced today the 12 education-technology startups selected to participate in the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by Techstars, their three-month immersive mentorship and business development program beginning today in New York City.

These dozen startups are tackling a broad range of challenges on the K12, higher education, career readiness, and consumer and lifelong learning fronts—from learning how to code or speak a new language, gaining STEM skills or data literacy, and getting into college to providing students with real-world, in-demand career skills, assessing children’s cognitive ability or funding their classrooms, increasing educational travel, and validating edtech’s impact on learning.

Chosen from among 500 applications, the 12 companies (increased from 10 last year) comprise the Accelerator’s second class of startups. Launched in 2013, the program is the first corporate-sponsored accelerator focused exclusively in the edtech sector.

The 2014 class includes:

  • Branching Minds (New York, NY): an online tool to help identify, understand, and address students’ cognitive strengths and weaknesses while tracking and reporting data across grade levels, classes, and the home-school divide
  • ClassWallet (Miami, FL): digital wallet and e-commerce platform letting donors easily give and track donations to K12 classes and also giving teachers decision-making power over budgets and purchases for their classrooms
  • Cognotion (New York, NY): teaches students language and career skills through story-telling, using online video narratives, gamification features, live simulation, and social media tools
  • CreatorBox (New York, NY): helps children ages 7-12 years old develop their creativity and practical science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills through a monthly series of engaging building projects
  • Edvisor.io (New York, NY and Toronto, ON, Canada): increases access to global educational opportunities by seamlessly connecting schools and educational travel agencies via a worldwide distribution system with integrated web tools
  • Grockit (New York, NY): online tool using adaptive learning, peer-to-peer learning, and game-like motivational features to help students prepare for standardized exams; originally founded in 2007, Grockit was acquired by Kaplan in July 2013
  • Lea(R)n (Raleigh, NC): runs cost-effective pre-clinical and clinical trials to validate emerging education technologies’ impact on learning outcomes
  • reKode (Redmond, WA and Reykjavik, Iceland): teaches computer coding skills to children and young adults—including those with learning challenges and disabilities—in a face-to-face environment, emphasizing peer-to-peer learning, positive development, and creativity
  • RobotsLAB (San Francisco, CA): creates robots as in-classroom teaching aids that help K12 educators bring to life abstract math and science concepts in fun, engaging ways
  • SmartOn (New York, NY and Bangalore, India): teaches “new economy skills” in areas such as coding, data science, social media, and design
  • Story To College (New York, NY): offers online and in-person courses that leverage the neuroscience of storytelling to help students write impactful, effective admissions essays
  • TuvaLabs (New York, NY): teaches data literacy skills by engaging students through the exploration and use of real data related to students’ own favorite topics and interests

Grockit is the first Kaplan team to be embedded into the Accelerator program. It will use the opportunity of this off-site, immersive process to accelerate its evolution and new growth opportunities.

“The nearly 500 applications we received—50% more than last year—demonstrate the great interest in the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator as well as a widely held passion among many talented people for our shared focus on changing education and improving student outcomes,” said Edward Hanapole, Kaplan’s Chief Information Officer, who is spearheading the project this year at Kaplan.

Hanapole continued: “Techstars has been a great partner with which to work on further developing these entrepreneurs and business models to accelerate their growth opportunities, from concept to implementation. And as much as they will learn about education and serving students from Kaplan, we hope to learn from their ideas and examples in support of our own work around educational innovation.”

“The 2013 program was a huge success and we have high expectations for this new class of startups. Our intensive, three-month program helps companies refine their vision and accelerate their progress towards making a real impact on education,” said Don Burton, Managing Director, Techstars.

Burton continued: “The Accelerator program itself is a great example of the possibilities for the future of education. The companies (the learners) have highly motivating projects. Instead of sitting in classrooms learning facts about how to start a company, they are ‘learning-by-doing’ and building real capabilities to reach the next level of performance with customer, product, organization, and fundraising competences (the curriculum). The Accelerator is learning on steroids.”

All the startups will spend the next three months working together in the Accelerator work space in midtown Manhattan. They will be mentored by several dozen industry leaders, including Kaplan executives like Kaplan, Inc.’s CEO Tom Leppert and Chairman Andy Rosen, Graham Holdings Company Chairman and CEO Donald Graham, Techstars founder and CEO David Cohen, noted venture capitalist and Foundry Managing Director Brad Feld, as well as notable founders of edtech companies and the CEOs of startups from the 2013 Kaplan EdTech Accelerator class.

They will also have access to Kaplan’s proprietary work using cognitive science and technology to create effective, evidence-based learning products, and the company’s breadth of educational expertise. Worldwide, Kaplan educates about one million students each year, taught by 10,000-plus instructors, and has relationships with 300-plus U.S. school districts, more than 20 university partners worldwide, and thousands of corporate customers.

The startups, excluding Grockit, will receive a $20,000 investment from Techstars and the option for a $150,000 convertible debt note from Kaplan.

The program will culminate in Demo Day (October 22nd), when the startups’ founders will present for an elite group of angel and venture investors and education industry influencers with the goal of securing funding to grow their companies. Last year’s Demo Day attracted more than 500 participants.

In 2013, the first Kaplan EdTech Accelerator served as the launching pad for 10 innovative, successful edtech companies: Degreed, Flinja, Mathify, MentorMob, Modern Guild, Newsela, panOpen, Ranku, Uvize, and Verificient Technologies. The entire inaugural class has raised more than $15 million in funding to date.

About Kaplan

Kaplan, Inc. (Kaplan.com) is a leading international provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools, and businesses. Kaplan serves students of all ages through a wide array of offerings including higher education, test preparation, professional training, and programs for kids in grades K through 12. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC) and its largest division.

About Techstars

Techstars is the #1 startup accelerator and mentorship-driven seed stage investment program in the world. Techstars delivers programs annually in top startup markets all over the world. Additionally, Techstars powers programs in collaboration with some of the best brands in the world. Companies have gone on to average more than $1.6M raised in outside capital after the completion of the program. To date, Techstars has funded more than 350 companies that are collectively valued in the billions of dollars.