Putting Ideas to the Test

In June, nine finalists will compete in this year’s Milken-Penn GSE’s Second Annual Education Business Plan Competition. 

Innovative solutions to recurring problems in education takes center stage at Penn GSE on June 9 when entrepreneurs compete in the second annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, the only business plan competition specifically aimed at stimulating educational entrepreneurship and using innovation to improve education. 

The finalists and their projects are: 

  • Tribal Education Technologies: Nicholas Miller of Vancouver, B.C., strives to make learning languages more accessible, as well as foster international problem solving, through enhanced communication and a global education network.
  • Startup Corps: Christian Kunkel from Philadelphia empowers high school students to be active, engaged participants in their education by leveraging their passions and teaching them the skills necessary to start something tangible.
  • R3 Collaboratives: Adam Geller from St. Louis has created a video-based online platform that enables teachers to engage in collaborative professional development.
  • Intellidemia: Judd Rattner of Troy, N.Y., has started a syllabus management platform that improves student performance, faculty productivity and administrative efficiency by making syllabi easy to organize, share and analyze course information.
  • NIXTY: Glen Moriarty of Virginia Beach, Va., provides an educational platform that students, educators and institutions harness to meet their learning goals through ePortfolios, WikiCourses and continuing education courses.
  • theCourseBook: Alexandre Scialom from San Francisco allows users to easily search for and find third-party learning resources and offers guidance to support their professional and personal development, based on interests, peers and location.
  • GoalPost: Matt Pasternack of San Francisco developed a platform that helps schools and families motivate students to achieve their academic goals.
  • Innovation Teaching: Steven Francisco from New York City finds creative solutions to the problems that contribute to students, school and district performance through tracking, analysis and adaptation.
  • Appsuccess: Miki Litmanovitz of Cambridge, Mass., created an online platform that links low-income high school seniors with college student mentors at top universities to pair up and move through the college application and financial aid processes together.

Their ideas for innovation in teaching and learning, access to education and data systems an infrastructure will be presented to 10 judges, including Gregory Milken, senior vice president at Knowledge Universe Learning Group; Frank Bonsal III, partner, New Markets Venture Partners; Ronald Fortune, CEO of Education.com; Jonathan Harber, founder and CEO of SchoolNet Inc.; LaVerne Srinivasan, president, New Leaders for New Schools; and Alan Todd, chairman of Corporate University Exchange. In addition, the judges for the Hewlett Foundation’s Startl Prize for Open Education Resources include Phil Kim of Karlin Asset Management; Laurie Racin, co-founder and managing director of Startl; Victor Vuchic, program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and Phoenix Wang, co-founder and managing director at Startl. 

“We are very excited by the growth in both the quality and quantity of submissions,” Doug Lynch, vice dean of Penn GSE and competition organizer, said. “Many judges felt there were many more ideas than just the finalists that warranted further consideration and funding.” 

Finalists will present their ideas, and winners will be announced immediately following the presentations. The winner will receive $25,000 and the runner-up $15,000. In addition, five finalists are eligible for the Hewlett Foundation’s Startl Prize for Open Source Solutions in Education, a $25,000 award. 

“The inaugural Entrepreneurship in Education Summit gave birth to an idea -– connecting educators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs who were interested in educational improvement,” Andy Porter, dean of Penn GSE, said. “There was such great energy around that idea that we’re convinced the summit will continue at Penn for years to come.” 

Nearly 60 independent judges evaluated more than 200 entries from around the world. Finalists were selected using a rubric developed by Penn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy. 

Penn GSE and the Milken Family Foundation launched the competition in 2009. 

After the competition has concluded, Penn GSE will convene its third annual Entrepreneurship in Education Summit, a meeting of learning-industry leaders, education entrepreneurs and funders who will be developing prescriptions for better government and K-12 systemic support of education entrepreneurs.

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