Finalists announced for 2022 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

Thursday, September 1, 2022
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This year’s finalists use digital tools, original music, and more to promote college readiness, mental health, and inclusivity. They will present their ideas at an October 12 virtual pitch competition.

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Catalyst @ Penn GSE and the Michael and Lori Milken Family Foundation have announced the finalists for the 13th annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC).

The selected ventures focus on some of the biggest problems in education, including college readiness and completion, social-emotional learning and mental health, digital inclusivity, and STEM-based learning. The finalists competing for over $150,000 in cash and prize include Arbol, Clarifi Education PBC, HeyKiddo, Hire Cause, Kabara Community Development Initiative, Trestle Labs, and Words Liive. They will present their ideas at an October 12 virtual pitch competition.

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, and winners and finalists have gone on to earn more than $150 million in funding. 

For the second year in a row, the judges will be looking at a venture’s ability to support underserved communities and potential to increase equitable outcomes in teaching, learning, and/or education.

The 2022 EBPC Finalists were selected through a crowd-sourced judging process that included practitioners, investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers, and more. The virtual finals will take place October 12 and are open to the public (register to attend).

“These ventures bring together remarkable creativity, state-of-the-art technology, and evidence-based approaches to help students overcome barriers to access and opportunity,” said Michael Golden, the executive director of Catalyst @ Penn GSE. “These finalists will help education systems and students around the world to reach new heights.”

The finalists are:


Arbol is a platform that helps low-income college students graduate through finance and community. Founders: David Gonzalez, Favio Osorio.

Clarifi Education PBC 

Clarifi is an evidence-based, digital homework tool for teens with ADHD and attention challenges who want to complete their work more efficiently and independently. Founders: Bryan Dinner, Bradley Levergood, Melissa Dvorsky.


HeyKiddo helps parents, caretakers, and educators anticipate, detect, and address mental, social, and/or emotional health struggles in their kiddos. Founder: Nicole Lipkin.

Hire Cause

Hire Cause supports middle schools and high schools with career-readiness programs that have a social impact. Founder: David Dvorkin. 

Kabara Community Development Initiative 

Kabara Community Development Initiative is a nonprofit that provides STEM-based learning for youths with a focus on girls in northern Nigeria, a region with population displacement, low literacy levels, and restrictive access to secular education. Founder: Hadiza Garbati. 

Trestle Labs

Trestle Labs empowers schools, colleges, and universities to become digitally inclusive for blind and low-vision students through Kibo, which enables them to listen, translate, digitize, and “audio'tize” any printed, handwritten, or digital content across 60 global languages. Founders: Akshita Sachdeva, Bonny Dave.

Words Liive 

Words Liive is a futuristic ed-tech startup dedicated to achieving a “Moonshot Goal” of getting two-thirds of the nation’s students at or above their grade-level reading proficiency by the year 2045 by using The Opus App, which integrates real music — via song lyrics that students love — into core literacy instruction for fourth- through twelfth-graders. Founder: Sage Salvo.

The EBPC is made possible through the generous support of the Milken Family Foundation, Globant, Inc., Cascade Communications, Osage Venture Partners, Amazon Web Services, Padcaster, and TurboSBIR.

The Milken family, several of whom are Penn graduates, embody the Franklin spirit and have demonstrated a commitment to the leaders of tomorrow through successful educational entrepreneurship — from pre-K services through college education for working adults — as well as investments in educational enterprises. 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. Penn GSE is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, as well as the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs.

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

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