October 29, 2015

Newest cohort of education entrepreneurs join EDSi, the hybrid incubator-seed fund

October 29, 2015 – Once a month, eight teams of entrepreneurs meet in Philadelphia to further develop ventures aimed at solving educational problems, from pre-school education in Kenya to better managing resources at low-income school districts. These entrepreneurs make up the Education Design Studio Inc.’s (EDSi) 2015-2016 cohort of education Fellows.  They were selected from approximately 300 applicants worldwide, said Executive Director of Innovation @ Penn GSE Bobbi Kurshan, for their potential to create new pathways for learning.

 “Our work around EDSi is part of a larger vision to spur changes in education, and we’re very excited about this newest cohort,” Kurshan said. “Among many other efforts, we launched a popular M.S.Ed. program on Educational Entrepreneurship last year and are producing ongoing research and thought leadership on the education innovation ecosystem. The EDSi program is a natural extension of our work, and continues to create opportunities to connect and nurture people aiming to transform education.”

The Design Studio fund is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and a host of seasoned venture capitalists and investors. EDSi represents a new paradigm for investors, with a model that blends the best elements of an incubator, design studio, seed fund and social impact company. The fund specifically emphasizes the importance of good research for any education business. It is built to allow entrepreneurs the longer incubation time necessary for working in the education space while connecting them with the investors and advisors critical to their success. The EDSi 2015-16 ventures have existing revenue and/or funding; a sales pipeline; intellectual property in areas such as software or curriculum development; and the ability to gain leadership in a specific market and/or industry niche.

EDSi’s third cohort includes the following ventures:

  • Animat – curriculum and online language learning tools, based in Philadelphia region
  • Byndr – mobile learning management system for higher ed in emerging markets, anchored in Philadelphia and India
  • CourseLab – software that makes course design simpler, based in Baltimore/Austin/NYC
  • EDspired – an inquiry-based, arts-infused school model, based in D.C.
  • Ironwill Kids – nutrition education for middle schoolers, based in New Jersey
  • Kidogo – pre-school education for newly urbanized families in sub-Saharan Africa, headquartered in Kenya
  • Project Indus – globally-focused platform for innovative content creation, Philadelphia/Netherlands
  • SmartTrack – Penn-incubated inventory and asset management for low-income school districts, Philadelphia

EDSi’s unique “weekend-intensive” model, which occurs monthly from August–February each year, brings together entrepreneurs from across the globe to work together at the Oxford Mills Innovation Center in Philadelphia. In February, the cohort will present the results of their work in a Demo Day for interested faculty, students and investors (more info at www.e-designstudio.com)

The EDSi emphasis on education pedagogy, data-based financial analysis, and cutting-edge technology development has distinguished the fund’s investments for the last several years. Uniquely, EDSi draws on Penn faculty and students from GSE, Wharton, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science for a variety of consulting roles. Since its inception, EDSi has consistently led strategic relationships with K-12, corporate, and higher education institutions to support early testing of demand and rapid iteration.

Previous EDSi ventures have garnered millions in investment, including Raise Labs (www.raiseme.com), ApprenNet (www.apprennet.com), and Ubongo (www.ubongokids.com).