Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, Powered by TechStars, Announces First 10 Startups

Today, Kaplan kicked off its first EdTech Accelerator, powered by TechStars, with a crop of 10 startups.

The 3-month program, which takes place in the Kaplan offices in New York City, offers startups $20,000 and mentorship from advisors like Kaplan CEO Andy Rosen, TechStars CEO David Cohen, Washington Post Company CEO Don Graham, and TechStars cofounder Brad Feld. It’s in the style of other corporate accelerators powered by TechStars, like Microsoft and Nike+.

In addition, Kaplan can offer its extensive network to the startups. Built up over seven decades, that includes over 1 million students, 300 US school districts, 20 university partners, and thousands of corporate customers.

Accelerator startups will also be one step closer to Kaplan Ventures, although the company claims no rights to be part of future investment rounds. Acquisitions are always possible, as well.

“We’d love to find some companies,” says Phil Schwarz, director of investments and corporate strategy at Kaplan. “In previous TechStars programs which have been powered by TechStars . . . there have been some acquisitions, so I don’t know why this program would be any different.”

But, added Ken Brown, executive director of corporate communications, “We have no plans at this point, nor is that part of the official part of the program.”

Instead, the goal of the program is simply to change education for the better. It’s a goal shared with other education accelerators, like Imagine K-12 (Palo Alto), Pearson Catalyst (virtual), LearnLaunchX (Boston), and Socratic Labs (NYC). As Schwarz explains, Kaplan is hoping that startups can help improve access to education, reduce prices, and improve outcomes. Online education is booming, for example, but unemployment is still high.

Yet breaking into education is far from elementary. Public schools are regulated, and it can take years to build relationships and convince an old industry to change its ways. Plus, young startups don’t always have access to the latest research on what methods, curricula, and features help students learn – what’s called “learning science.” That’s part of the package at the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator.

Here are the 10 teams participating in the inaugural class.

Degreed (San Francisco, CA): A tool that makes online learning more relevant by giving you a score for all your accredited and non-accredited education. Cofounded by David Blake, Eric Sharp, and Mike Adams.

Flinja (San Francisco, CA): A marketplace where college students, staff, and alumni can offer their services.

MentorMob (Chicago, IL): A platform where you can find and create “playlists” of lessons to learn any topic or skill. Cofounded by Kris Chinosorn and Vince Leung.

Modern Guild (New York, NY): Modern apprenticeship, where you can learn, get mentorship, and prepare for your career. Founded by Adrien Fraise, who has seven years of strategy consulting experience.

PanOpen (New York, NY): A platform for schools to take advantage of open source course materials. Cofounded by Dr. Brian Jacobs, a professor at Cornell University, and Jean Barnash, the cofounder of CTO School.

Playpower Labs (Pittsburgh, PA): An initiative by Carnegie Mellon creating web and mobile math and literacy games for students in grades K-8.

Ranku (New York, NY): A platform for marketing and ranking non-profit degree programs.

Uvize (Boulder, CO): A training platform that helps veterans prepare for college and succeed in their courses. Cofounded by Dave Cass, a former Navy lieutenant commander, and Dave Parker, who has developed apps for the Air Force.

Verificient Technologies (New York, NY): Software to help scale online proctoring with machine learning.

Whipsmart (New York, NY): Creators of Newsela, a platform that teaches you to read using current news content.

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Written by:
Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.
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