Finalists Announced for 2021 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

Thursday, July 29, 2021

This year’s finalists bring an extra focus on improving equity in education, and will present their ideas at an October 5 virtual pitch competition.

Media Contact: 

Media Contact: 

Jeff Frantz, Penn GSE Communications | 215-898-3269

*Note for TV and radio: The University of Pennsylvania has an on-campus ISDN line and ready access to a satellite uplink facility with live-shot capability.

Catalyst @ Penn GSE—a global center for education innovation at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE)—and the Michael and Lori Milken Family Foundation announced the finalists for the 12th annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) today. 

The Finalists’ ventures are focused on some of the biggest problems in education, including bridging the digital divide, improving social-emotional learning, and making AI work for students. They include 9ijakids Educational Games, The AI Education Project, Gladeo, HomeWorks Trenton, Jara, KlickEngage, Readlee, SuperBetter, and Weird Enough Productions. The ventures will compete for over $130,000 in cash and prizes in the virtual pitch competition on Tuesday, October 5.

Considered the most prestigious and well-funded competition of its kind, the EBPC attracts innovative education ventures from around the world. To-date, the EBPC has awarded over $1.5 million dollars in cash and prizes. Winners and finalists have gone on to earn more than $150 million in funding.

Register to attend the October 5 virtual pitch competiton

For the first time in 2021, a venture’s ability to support underserved communities and potential to increase equitable outcomes in teaching, learning, and/or education is part of the judging criteria.

The 2021 EBPC Finalists were selected through a crowd-sourced judging process that includes practitioners, investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers, and more. The virtual Finals will take place October 5 and are open to the public.

“After seeing the pandemic upend education over the last year and more fully reveal the inequities in global education, we are pleased the judges have recognized these ventures that are innovating to create opportunities for all learners,” said Catalyst @ Penn GSE Executive Director Michael Golden. 

The finalists are:

9ijakids Educational Games, a company combating poverty by providing quality affordable education and 21st-century skills to African children using technology and gamification.

The AI Education Project, a venture developing culturally relevant, multidisciplinary curriculum that addresses the skills and knowledge necessary for students to thrive in and positively contribute to a society where AI and automation are increasingly a part of every industry.

Gladeo, an inclusive, next-generation career navigation platform for the future of work. 

HomeWorks Trenton, an organization running a free, community-based, after school residential program where Black and Brown girls can receive academic and social structure; evidence-based programming relating to academics, life skills, civic engagement, and women empowerment; and an authentic community that empowers them to become self-advocates that collectively create grassroots and systemic change.

Jara, a venture bridging the digital divide in education by building the distance learning solution for low-power and low-internet communities globally.

KlickEngage, an edtech company changing the way that children communicate their emotions and receive support.

Readlee, a venture improving academic outcomes by listening to students read.

SuperBetter, a company bringing social-emotional learning to life for middle school and high school classrooms by making it practical and engaging.

Weird Enough Productions, a social impact organization that uses diverse stories to empower young people and the adults that support them.

The EBPC is made possible through the generous support of the Milken Family Foundation, American Public University System, Sage Scholars, Osage Venture Partners, Amazon Web Services, and Padcaster.

The Milken family—several of whom are Penn graduates—embody the Franklin spirit and through successful educational entrepreneurship—from pre-K services through college education for working adults—as well as investments in educational enterprises, have demonstrated a commitment to the leaders of tomorrow. In their four decades of philanthropic activities, the Milken family has made innovation in education—as exemplified by the Milken Educator Awards and National Institute for Excellence in Teaching—a cornerstone of their work. Visit the for more information.

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge-building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

Find more on or follow the conversation on Twitter: @CatalystPennGSE and #MilkenPennGSE.


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