110 Interesting Edupreneurs at SXSW

The best thing about SXSWedu is the crowd in the Hilton lobby where I spent most of the conference.  Here’s a recap of 110 interesting edupreneurs I visited with:


  1. Rob Mancabelli is assembling a great analytics team BrightBytes and they are working with thousands of districts (see Short Cycle Efficacy Trials Key to PersonalizedLearning).

  2. Mark Limburg, Panther Learning, is promoting better peer review of essays (and more) with SWoRD.

  3. Jim (and Rudi) Lewis was pitching their Idaho LMS Silverback Learning.

  4. Lissa Moses Johnson, Mosamack, turns kids into science detectives.

  5. Alex Kluge, Vizit Solutions, visualization & Instructional Technology.

  6. Sean Sears, sageCrowd – providing life advice on the web.

  7. San Shephard, Star Chart is rapidly growing (over 11 million downloads) astronomy application.

  8. Dan Carroll and the whole Clever team were Hilton lobby fixtures.

  9. Nelson R González launched Delcara with Ramona Pierson.

  10. Paul Abumov, ScribeSense is trying to make sense of grading.

  11. Gustaw Groth, Frugoton, is building cool preschool games.

  12. Ken Robertson, Picmonic, uses pictures to boost memory.

  13. Daniel Fountenberry, Borne Digital, game me a lobby demo of his smart books that grow in difficulty as kids progress.

  14. Former foundation exec Marina Walne is working on an affordable school in a kit–a huge developing world need (e.g., see feature on Bridge International).

  15. Woody Robertson and the CollegePlus team are creating low cost degree pathways.

  16. Scot Refsland developed Exit Ticket with Leadership Public Schools (see feature) and is taking it to market as CEO of EdStart.

  17. Elina Arponen leads Tribe Studios in Finland where she’s bringing social learning to corporate training and development.

  18. Paul Henderson launched lesson finder CourseKicker.

  19. Michael Ozeryansky launched Smartifico from an Israeli incubator to organize (check out his video).

  20. Andrew Cohen Brainscape wants to help you learn faster.

  21. Russell Long is building  Authentica, a capable data integrator in Atlanta.

  22. Andrew Herman just launched Alma, a new LMS from Portland, OR.

  23. Raffaela Rein launched Career Foundry, a German entry in the employability space.

  24. Royce Siggard is serving special needs adults who need help getting a job;

  25. Michael Robbins left the Department to launch @SpanLearning but will continue creating partnerships to support student success.

  26. Andyshea Saberioon pitched school fund raising site PledgeCents.

  27. Dr. “Grasshopper” Illangkoon (@BlueMarbelSpace) pitched SagaNet, an effort to bring scientists into the classroom.

  28. Veteran NPR report Monica Brady Myerov pitched Listen Edition, a source for curated podcasts and related lessons for kids (a treat for this NPR junkie).

  29. Ernie Delgado pitched his EdTech service provider Beyond Technology Education.

  30. Mike Olson pitched Talent Unbound, a low cost private school;

  31. Naimish Gohil closed the show with Show My Homework, the UK’s No.1 solution for tracking and monitoring homework.

Growing companies you should know:

  1. John Katzman, Noodle, the place to search for learning.

  2. Alan Gershenfeld, E-Line Media updated Gamestar Mechanic leading to widespread classroom use.  We learned that Alan helped launch ASU Center for Games and Impact and has been hanging out in Phoenix for 18 months.

  3. John Marino from Six Red Marbles (see feature on designing powerful learning)

  4. Andrew Pass runs a big content developer from Detroit.

  5. George Straschnov, Bisk Education, supports more than 50 HigherEd online programs.

  6. Eric Waynick’s Thinkgate won RTTT funded instructional improvement systems in Massachusetts and Ohio.

  7. Jason Lange, Bloomboard, wants every educator to have a personal development plan.

  8. Cory Reid, MasteryConnect, is helping teachers collaborate around assessments.

  9. Elizabeth Lytle from zSpace was showing off video clips of their cool 3D modeling software (see our 2012 feature).

  10. Jessie Woolley Wilson, DreamBox, talked about leading disruption.

The big guys:

  1. We’ve tracked Laura Smith from San Diego to Sesame; now she leading deployment support for Amplify. (See review of their new middle school ELA curriculum)

  2. Abhi Arya leads English language learning for Pearson.

  3. Amar Kumar affordable learning fund at Pearson.

  4. Victoria Burwell is the CMO for McGraw Education; the recently purchased Engrade and ALEKS and are a team to watch.

  5. Sari Factor, CEO of Edgenuity is powering blends in all 50 states.

  6. Peter Janzow, open badge lead (how’s that for a new job title?) for Pearson.

  7. Long-time Pearson exec Kathy Hurley is now hanging out at Harvard.

  8. John Sipe is the new western regional VP at Curriculum Associates.

  9. Jon Phillips directs the global edu effort at Dell.

  10. Jaime Casap is an evangelist for higher expectations for low income students (and for Google).

  11. Jeff Kwitowski, K12, joined us for the blended learning workshop (see the paper we wrote with Fuel Ed.)

Big impact nonprofits:

  1. Amy Guidara, DQC, is working on clearing up the misguided privacy bills that will kill personalized learning (see my review of the CA bill).

  2. Sandy Speicher, IDEO, is taking design thinking to the challenge of literacy in Brazil.

  3. Nihal Elrayess, manages tech solutions for TFA.

  4. Andy Rotherham, Bellwether Education, is launching RealClearEd.

  5. John Fitzpatrick, Educate Texas, (see 10 year anniversary feature).

  6. Joel Rose, New Classrooms, thinks edu-innovation takes a combo of OD and IT (organizational design that takes advantage of tools that leverage great teaching).

  7. Bob Wise, Alliance for Excellent Education, remains optimistic despite the sideshows.

  8. We talked local funding alliances with Janine Ingram, MIND Research Institute.

  9. Michael Levine, Cooney Center, discussed GamesAndLearning (my feature).

  10. Michelle Rhee-Weise (has an interesting maiden name and) is the new HigherEd expert at Christensen Institute.

  11. An-Me Chung moved from MacArthur to Mozilla to work on badges.

  12. Iwan Streichenberger has refocused inBloom on district partnerships.

  13. Jason Hoekstra left US ED to join inBloom.

  14. As the event lead at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Angela Christophe is hard a work on the national conference in Las Vegas.

  15. Kat Crawford, Director of Tech Solutions, CEEAS won #ChoppedEDU and is bringing next-gen models to juvenile justice.

  16. Susanne Wright with open content provider NROC gave me an update on EdReady,  a new adaptive system that will help college students avoid developmental courses.

  17. As chairman of Project Grad, Mac Dunwoody is trying to fix big bad urban high schools.

  18. Vince Bertram from Project Lead the Way talked about teaching engineering and job skills.

  19. Greg Wilborn left Colorado Springs for Vision Trust.

  20. Andrew Coy, Digital Harbor Foundation, is lighting up Baltimore (see Digital Harbor: Baltimore Rising.)

School leaders:

  1. Kristoffer Haines lead a great session on urban transformation and was joined by

  2. Charlie Bufalino and

  3. Caryn Voskuil also of Rocketship Education.

  4. Abbey Andrietsch, Schools that Can Milwaukee, is on path to create 20,00 quality learning opportunities.

  5. Shaw Hardnett, Center City Public Charter Schools in D.C. would like to see more people of color leading reform and school development efforts.

  6. I finally met Jeff Charbonneau, National teacher of the year and author of a popular recent blog: Treat Me Like a Student.

  7. Erin Mote and

  8. Eric Tucker will open Brooklyn Lab School in the fall and are embracing joy and rigor in their planned NGLC winning 6-12 school model.

Online advocates discussed quality course choices

  1. John Bailey and

  2. Nathan Martin, Digital Learning Now;

  3. Susan Patrick, iNACOL;

  4. Heather Staker, Christensen Institute;

  5. Michael Brickman, National Policy Director, Fordham Institute;

  6. Adam Jones and

  7. Julie Linn from Texans for EdReform.

Impact investors:

  1. Matthew Greenfield, Rethink Education, has a growing portfolio of high impact startups (watch for a paper we co-authored on impact investing).

  2. Lori Fey, Edfi Alliance, is advancing data standards and tools.

  3. Micah Sagebiel, the EdTech led at the Dell Foundation.

  4. Michael Staton, Learn Capital, gave a great talk on the future of HigherEd.

  5. Jen Halloran, Startup: Education,  joined us a Dolphin Tank judge.

  6. Jen Carolan and

  7. David Havens, NewSchools Seed Fund, who is all for “creativity, design spaces, and positive play for schools.”

  8. Masa Uzicanin, Gates Foundation, is building an interesting PD portfolio.

  9. Chris Nyren, Educated Ventures (and recent co-host of Los Angeles Startup Weekend EDU).

  10. Super seed investor Mitch Kapor is hosting Hackathons.

  11. Ben Jealous, former NAACP director, joined Mitch Kapor (see feature).

  12. Kevin Custer, Arc Capital Development, has made about 20 EdTech investments.

  13. Godmother of blended learning, Gisele Huff, Hume Foundation.

  14. Harry Singh, Intel Capital seems to know everyone.

We’re from the government…

  1. Seth Andrew of Democracy Prep is now Superintendent in Residence at US ED.

  2. Evo Popoff, assistant chief in NJ, is trying to keep things innovative post-Cerf.

  3. Michael Steffen, Director of Digital Learning at the FCC, is trying to get every school ConnectED.

Cool kids:

  1. At 15 Jack Andraka created a less expensive rapid test strip that detects early signs of pancreatic and ovarian cancer. He’s advocating for open access to scientific journals and other publishings.

  2. Ninteen year old Zak Malamed created StuVoice.org and organizes #StuVoice Twitter chats. His mission is to advocate for the student voice in education policy and empower the student voice.

  3. Jordan Howard was recently appointed as one of Dell’s Youth Innovation Advisors. At 21 years old, Jordan is a thought leader passionate about sustainability, environmental education and youth empowerment and is one of the youngest sustainability educators and green school champs.

And the ever present…

  1. Recruiters Allen Berge, FieldPros, and

  2. Margareta Bancroft, TechEd Connect, and

  3. Ralph Protsik, BSG Team Ventures, the godfather of edu headhunters.

DreamBox, Pearson, Curriculum Associates, Fuel Ed (K12), MIND Research Inc. and Digital Learning Now! are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.  MasteryConnect, Bloomboard and BrightBytes are Learn Capital portfolio companies where Tom is a partner. 

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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San Shepherd

Thanks for the mention! (although we are approaching 11M users and giving away between 500K - 1M units per month)

Mary Jo Madda

I would add Alex Hernandez (Charter School Growth Fund) and the RobotsLAB founders.


Tom Vander Ark

He's top shelf...but he got a whole post:

Emil Lamprecht

Thanks so much Tom for including us on this list! We just released a little video featurette about our Web Development program featuring one of our Berlin based mentors. Would love your opinion on it!

Jessica Schram

Hi Tom,
My name is Jessica Schram and I am the Director of Public Relations for Student Voice.
Thanks so much for including Zak Malamed in your list of 110 Interesting Edupreneurs at SXSW. We’d love to keep you in the loop about future Student Voice endeavors, like our “Student Voice Live!" conference on Sept. 20 in New York, N.Y. Please reach out to me via email at your convenience so I can add you to our list of supporters.
We appreciate your enthusiasm and passion for education. Thanks so much for spreading the word with your blog.
[email protected]


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Jessica

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