(Photo via LinkedIn)
Following a shift to digital operations, education tech startup Fulphil recently placed in an international pitch competition for businesses aiming to solve education-related problems with innovative solutions.
University of Pennsylvania alum Tiffany Yau, a native Californian, started the company in 2018 after seeing that many of her classmates were leaving the Philly area after college to find the perfect venture for them to work at. She’d started to feel like Philly was her home and wondered: What if we could get them to stay here and work on something that was their own, and impact oriented?
So she launched Fulphil, a platform with a curriculum on social entrepreneurship — the idea that a business could operate by solving a problem within a community. By early 2019, though, she realized the product fit better with a younger crowd. She learned that high schoolers often had ideas for improving their neighborhoods or communities, but three-fifths of high schoolers weren’t introduced to the idea of entrepreneurship.
“The people closest to the problems are often closest to the solutions,” Yau told Technical.ly. “We have a big idea of what counts as impact — third-world countries, huge ideas — that’s so far beyond reach that it feels intangible. That’s something we really want to change, is to make the idea more accessible.”
One of the first iterations of the business involved sending Fulphil reps to schools to disseminate information on entrepreneurship. But in wanting to expand the program (and for it to work in coronavirus times), the business is now primarily online, with an “E-Lab” of courses on entrepreneurship concepts like design thinking, marketing strategy, alpha-beta testing, competition and differentiation, and pitching.
Seven schools or districts now use the program, Yau said, and it offers a backend dashboard built for teachers that aligns career technical education standards with project-based learning.
High schoolers who have gone through the program have created businesses such as Twisted Spirit, an all-natural haircare brand that restores natural curls; Anubis Treats, an affordable, junk-free dog treats company; and SitterCircle, a babysitting, pet sitting and tutoring service app.
The Fulphil team is made up of four part-time employees and a handful of college interns, Yau said. The team applied to the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition in the spring and recently participated as one of eight finalists. They landed third place, and collected the $5,000 Osage Venture Partners Audience Choice Prize. All finalists also received $1,000 in cash and $5,000 in AWS promotional credits.
The eight finalists’ apps, platforms and products speak to the needs of 2020, Catalyst @ Penn GSE Executive Director Michael Golden said in a statement.
“This year’s dramatic disruptions including the global pandemic, social justice movement, and political battles have created an urgent need to reimagine the field of education to serve all students, especially the most marginalized and at risk,” Golden said. “The 2020 EBPC Finalists have risen to the challenge to advance STEM education, social emotional learning, social entrepreneurship and much more.”
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