SIIA showcases edu-ventures

SIIA is holding their annual EdTech Summit today.  Karen Billings kicked things off last night with a lighting round of presentations by education ventures–an interesting mixture of for-profit and non-profit organizations.  The well attended session signals the growing interest from funders in education innovation and healthier market dynamics.
Here’s a quick recap of the 5 minute pitches:  Publishes free digital higher ed textbooks. They sell alternate formats and study aids, average ticket $28. Most titles are specifically developed for this platform.  Raised $5.4m in two rounds.  Key will be author economics and selling enough ancillary products to make the ‘freemium’ model work at scale. Users created 10k virtual books last year. Learning network with 17k members and 30k visitors monthly. Target k-8 institutional and parent. Subscription model (making it a nice family business but no very interesting for VCs) Connect data and resources thru hosted retension solution that drives workflow. Love what they’re trying to do but this is a niche app, will get buried by improved state data systems and LMS.
CentsCity teaches financial literacy to kids 8-12 years in games. Target afterschool and consumer.  Learning community with rewards.
Jason Project. NatGeo curriculum for grades 4-8th grade. 1.8m users.  Building adoptible curriculum.  Don’t think there’s a business here, but maybe they’ll find a way to break even.
KidsWrite. Books authored by kids social media + publishing + project based learning. Subscription based.  Target 4-8 grades.  Fun project, tough business.
LiveScribe. Pen captures writing and audio and synchronizes.  Cool tech, tough biz.
PrazasLive. Online learning using natural handwriting.  Still don’t get it.
Smallab. An embodied learning environment incorporating fully body motion. STEM focus. Like Wii for science.  Will have a couple cool apps but a small niche biz.
Waterford assessment of core skills.  Waterford is a SLCity nonprofit with some cool assets.  WACS is a fun alternative to Dibbles–reading assessment for early readers.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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