Considering the School District of Philadelphia’s ongoing $700 million budget crisis, education news of late in Philadelphia has had a tendency to be grim.
But that wasn’t the tenor Wednesday night, when 12 ambitious, local education ventures competed for prize packs of entrepreneurial resources.
PhilaSoup, an emerging, public dinner party discussion group dedicated to investing its proceeds to startup education ventures received a $5,000 check to strengthen its efforts. And Springboard Collaborative, which engages students through the summer months to help retain knowledge received a suite of pro-bono services to help it grow.
Those winners presented polished pitches to hundreds of young Philadelphians gathered at WHYY headquarters for Philly SEED (Supporting Entrepreneurship in Education) to see emerging or established education startups that are hoping to, or already are, impacting city students.
The dense, interested crowd was emblematic of the new role some Philadelphia citizens are playing in order to help shape education reform: taking action with or without the permission of the School District of Philadelphia.
The event was put together by the new PhillyCORE Leaders (Coalition of Rising Education Leaders) group, whose aim it is to promote the dialogue coming from younger members of Philadelphia. The group hopes to engage the education community, encourage education innovation in Philadelphia and reform schools. [Full Disclosure: Technically Philly was an in-kind sponsor of the event.]
The idea started in GChat, primarily, said organizer Claire Robertson-Kraft in her opening remarks, before it moved to coffee shops and landed at WHYY, with an opening from Newsworks head Chris Satullo and from Councilman Bill Green.
“We hear from education colleagues in other cities, Philadelphia is a really hard place to change. We get that pat on the back. But that’s not what we see from this community,” she said, referring to the active, engaged participants.
After the jump, Technically Philly dishes out its own awards to participants.
- Most Compelling: Startup Corps – Imagine a school completely dedicated to the values of entrepreneurship. “And we’re going to build it right here in Philly,” said founder Christian Kunkel. His pitch was sharp and inspiring, added to a successful and growing entrepreneurship-focused high school program. We covered the organization in July 2010.
- Best Business Plan: Education-Plus Inc.’s High School – Working to create satellite colleges and universities in public high schools, moving post-secondary opportunity closer to the neighborhoods. Through revenue and resource sharing, Education-Plus had the strongest, most convincing plan of the groups.
- Most Practical: ApprenNet – The company, which we covered last July, is hoping to bring its existing law education collaboration platform to the K-12 space, a natural move.
- Best Steve Jobs impression: Lessonsmith – One of the more tech-focused initiatives, LessonSmith has built a collaborative online platform for teachers to develop lessons plans and material. But it was Founder Dan Lopez’ enthusiasm, if not his slight nod to Steve Jobs that sold the crowd. “This is where the magic happens,” he said, before a slide displayed the inner-workings of the tool.
- Most Captivating: YES! for Schools – The presenters were smooth, comparing the values that we look for in love interests — smart, caring, thoughtful, happy, funny, sexy – and comparing them with the core values that we want in ourselves, and that Philadelphia’s students should find in themselves and each other. It was a hit with the young audience.
- Most Polished: PhilaSoup – Since launching in January, PhilaSoup, which took home a $5,000 prize for their presentation, says it has tripled attendees and given away more than $1,000 in microgrants during its $5-admission dinner parties. Presenters had their story — and their wardrobes — in check.