Education / Incubators

Penn’s Graduate School of Education launches $2.1M edtech incubator

Each startup will receive $10,000 upon entering the incubator when it launches in late September and will be able to raise more funding from the incubator's fund after graduation.

Michele McKeone of Autism Expressed accepts the award for Startup of the Year at the 2013 Philadelphia Geek Awards. (Photo by Clever Girl Photography)
Updated 9/24/13 11:47 a.m. to add more details on EDSi's lack of residency requirement.

This fall, five startups will participate in Penn‘s Graduate School of Education (GSE) six-month edtech incubator, according to a release.

The $2.1 million effort, first announced in May, is called the Education Design Studio, Inc. Participating companies do not have to move to Philadelphia, like they would with other programs like DreamIt Ventures and GoodCompany Group. Rather, the five companies will meet once a month in a different city for training and workshops.

The physical location for the incubator, which will be off-campus, is still in the works, said Barbara “Bobbi” Kurshan, Penn GSE’s Executive Director of Academic Innovation. This location will serve as an office space for the two Philadelphia-based companies, Apprennet and Autism Expressed, and will also be open to other edtech companies, in hopes of growing a broader local edtech network, Kurshan said.

The incubator is part of Kurshan’s vision to turn Philadelphia into the heart of an East Coast global edtech hub.While there is no residency requirement, at least one entrepreneur said that his participation in the incubator is already growing his connection with the region.

“I see our presence here growing,” said Victor Karkar, cofounder of Silicon Valley-based scrible, noting that through the incubator, he’s already met local investors and a local school that is interested in piloting his product.

Additionally, Karkar thinks the lack of residency requirement allows for older and perhaps more seasoned entrepreneurs to participate in the program. Karkar, whose family lives in Silicon Valley, said he might not have been able to participate in EDSi, had there been a residency requirement.

Each startup will receive $10,000 upon entering the incubator when it launches in late September and will be able to raise more funding from the incubator’s fund after graduation.

The ten finalists of the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition were all invited to participate in the incubator. The five startups in the inaugural class include two Philadelphia-based companies and three West Coast companies:

  • digital literacy startup Autism Expressed, which won a $20,000 award at the Business Plan Competition
  • online legal education startup Apprennet
  • Silicon Valley-based API translator Apidapter
  • San Francisco-based financial aid startup Raise Labs
  • Silicon Valley-based online research startup scrible 

The $2.1 million fund includes participation from investors and education companies like Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania; McGraw-Hill; Ron Packard of K12 Inc.; Drs. Steve and Jessica Melman from Dermazoo; John H. Cammack, Managing Partner of Cammack Associates; John Katzman, CEO of The Noodle Companies LLC; the Brigitte and Donald Manekin Family Fund; Gregory Milken; Richard Binswanger, President/CEO of Away To Donate; Dr. Wallace Boston, CEO of American Public Education, Inc.; and Eric Aroesty.

Companies: Instructure / ApprenNet / Autism Expressed / Ben Franklin Technology Partners / University of Pennsylvania

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