Winners announced for 2023 Milken–Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Unlocked Labs founder Jessica Hicklin (fourth from right), winner of the grand prize at the 14th annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, stands with others on stage at the competition finals

Seven finalists pitched their ventures live at EDTECH WEEK in New York City.

Media Contact: 

Jackie Jircitano, Catalyst @ Penn GSE Communications
814-440-2299 |

*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.

NEW YORK CITY—Unlocked Labs, a venture that empowers and employs justice-impacted individuals to design and build technology that promotes human flourishing and enables decarceration, captured the $40,000 grand prize at the 14th annual MilkenPenn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) today in New York City.

Skizaa, a venture that helps education leaders make real-time data-driven decisions by collecting and analyzing data from rural schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, won the $25,000 Cognativ Inc. Prize.

EJ Milken embraces Unlocked Labs founder Jessica Hicklin on stage after her venture won the grand prize at the 14th <span>annual</span> Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition
EJ Milken (left) and Unlocked Labs founder Jessica Hicklin embrace on stage after learning that Unlocked Labs won the grand prize at the 14th annual Milken–Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition Oct. 4 in New York City.

Other winners include Storyshares, which received the Magnitude Digital Prize, and Unlocked Labs, which also earned the most live votes to win the Osage Venture Partners Audience Choice Prize.

New this year, Conscious Venture Partners selected one MilkenPenn GSE finalist—EdVisorly, a nationwide community college-to-university transfer platform—to receive a $100,000 investment.

Seven finalists pitched their ventures to a live judging panel as well as an audience of investors, researchers, and practitioners. The final competition was a keystone event of EDTECH WEEK 2023.

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 $2 million dollars in cash and prizes. Winners and finalists have gone on to earn more than $200 million in funding.

The 2023 EBPC winners:

  • Unlocked Labs captured the $40,000 Michael & Lori Milken Family Foundation Grand Prize.

  • Skizaa won the $25,000 Cognativ Inc. Prize.

  • Storyshares earned the $10,000 Magnitude Digital Prize.

  • Unlocked Labs collected the $5,000 Audience Choice Prize presented by Osage Venture Partners.

  • EdVisorly was awarded a $100,000 investment from Conscious Venture Partners.

  • The finalists also received a portion of $50,000 in Amazon Web Services credits and $1,500 cash each from Catalyst @ Penn GSE.

“The MilkenPenn GSE Education Business Plan Competition was founded 14 years ago to support entrepreneurs addressing persistent problems in education,” says Michael Golden, Executive Director of Catalyst @ Penn GSE. “The latest NAEP results confirm that we need innovative solutions now more than ever. The winners show us the enormous potential of EdTech innovators to expand educational equity worldwide.” 

Last year’s EBPC winners were Words Liive, Hey Kiddo, Arbol, and Clarifi.

The EBPC is made possible through the generous support of the Michael & Lori Milken Family Foundation, Cognativ Inc., Magnitude Digital, Osage Venture Partners, Amazon Web Services, and Conscious Venture Partners.

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. The EBPC is part of Catalyst @ Penn GSE, a collection and facilitator of unique, innovative initiatives at Penn GSE aimed at addressing persistent and emerging problems in education.

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

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