Edtech Acclerator LearnLaunchX Names First Class

6/10/13Follow @curtwoodward

Summer’s here, but that doesn’t mean the focus on schooling stops—at least not in the Boston area, where education is big business and a driving force in regional culture.

Today, a few entrepreneurs hoping to leave their mark on the system are being welcomed into LearnLaunchX, an accelerator program for edcuation-focused startups.

LearnLaunchX follows a model popularized by top-tier national startup program TechStars: Startups get up to $18,000 in seed investment in exchange for 6 percent of the young company, along with office space and other perks. They’ll spend three months working on their product or service, connecting with mentors and advisers along the way.

“Putting out the welcome mat for companies pursuing these innovations is vital for a region that’s deeply dependent on the education sector,” LearnLaunchX co-founder Eileen Rudden says.

There has been an explosion of general-purpose and more targeted accelerator/incubator programs in recent years, as startup costs have dropped and more money has flowed into early stage company creation.

Despite all of the new attention on creating innovative companies, education remains a tough nut to crack. A lot of that comes down to politics—even a perfectly functioning American political system is set up to change slowly, much different from the breakneck pace entrepreneurs typically love.

But there is also plenty of opportunity to remake things. President Obama’s administration has taken on teachers’ unions on issues like performance measurement, and entrepreneurs are trying desperately to modernize the old college system by offering more online and open-source courses, instructional materials, and alternatives to a university education.

Here are some themes that stick out among the companies selected for the program’s inaugural run:

—Tools for Teachers: Listen Edition, from former public radio reporter Monica Brady-Myerov, provides teachers with lesson plans and activities that revolve around public radio journalism. Countdown uses software to help teachers and administrators make sure their curriculum lines up with education standards.

—Testing Tech: Gradeable is a software application that makes test grading faster, and helps instructors keep tabs on student performance by tracking their test data. Cognii uses natural language processing to automatically grade students’ answers to essay questions.

—Online Education: Createbiz is an online education and crowdfunding website for entrepreneurs in creative fields. EduCanon’s software lets teachers create online and video lessons combined with quizzes and personal instruction. Intellify Learning helps schools, application developers, and others build online courses.

—Extracurricular: Empow Learning operates after-school and summer programs that get kids involved in tech and creative fields, offering instruction in robotics, filmmaking, video game design, and more.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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