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Alexandre Scialom takes top prizes at Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan, NFTE sends winner to the White House

The following is a report done in partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods Program, the capstone class for the Temple Journalism Department. theCourseBook, billed by its founder as “Yelp for adult education” won Thursday the two top prizes at the second annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan, netting San Francisco entrepreneur Alexandre Scialom a cool […]


The following is a report done in partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods Program, the capstone class for the Temple Journalism Department.
theCourseBook, billed by its founder as “Yelp for adult education” won Thursday the two top prizes at the second annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan, netting San Francisco entrepreneur Alexandre Scialom a cool $50,000 $25,000.
Thursday’s event, held by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, was a business plan competition that challenges young entrepreneurs to apply their innovative business ideas in educational formats.

Of the more than 200 entries that were submitted from around the world, nine finalists were invited to the event, which was held in Silverman Hall on the University of Pennsylvania main campus in University City.
The daylong competition began at 8 a.m., with each team giving presentations to the 10 judges and others in attendance on the specifics of their business models in areas such as scalability, distribution and business structure.
Two separate awards were given, one by the Milken Family Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif., and the other made five finalists eligible for the Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources from Hewlett-Packard. The Milken prize included a cash reward of $25,000 and $15,000 for the runner up, and Scialom doubled his gift for the Startl nod.
Judging, which lasted more than two hours, ended in a unanimous selection for Scialom winning both prizes for his educational resource database theCourseBook. Second place was awarded to a team from Troy, N.Y. for its syllabus management platform Intellidemia.

“Basically you can search for what you want to learn, find interesting classes, events, books and online materials. All of it is aggregated in one place and we make it really easy to search it and make it useful for users,” Scialom said of the CourseBook.
Many judges said they were impressed by the ease of access that theCourseBook provides to users along with its potential for further development.
“We picked theCourseBook because it levels the playing field of content providers and provides an interesting distribution model. At the same time it’s a model that has a growth model that has the potential to become a big, real business,” said Phoenix Wang, the founder and managing director of Startl and representative from the Open Educational Resources prize.
Scialom is originally from France and currently runs theCourseBook with only one intern whom he pays out of his own pocket. The cash prize will go directly to expanding the staff and resources of theCourseBook with a little going towards celebration, he explained.
“Maybe I’ll have a beer tonight,” Scialom said with a laugh, ” but the rest will go to the business.”

NFTE announces winner

Daniel Burke Photography
NFTE Philadelphia also announced the winner of its Philadelphia Final Regional Business Plan Competition 2011. The group, which encourages entrepreneurship in high school students nationwide will send student Bianca Nieves to the White House thanks to her business Grandama’s Secret, a venture based on her grandmother’s Hispanic spice for meats.
According to Executive Director Sylvia Watts McKinney, other finalists included:

  • Farwa Batool is a Junior at Samuel Fels High School.   Her business, Sheila’s Boutique, has both an ethnic and international flare: high-end Pakistani and Indian clothing purchased wholesale from Asia and sold retail in Philadelphia.  Farwa has plans to eventually have her own line of clothing manufactured in India and sold in large cities throughout the United States.
  • Sasha Carrero is a Senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, NJ.  Sasha is enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at WWHS, and her business is A Taste of Cake.  Sasha plans to enroll in The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. Afterwards, she plans build up a chain of bakeries and restaurants.
  • Darryl Howell is a Junior at World Communications Charter School.  Darryl’s business is MYCAR, a tutoring service for children from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. Darryl has plans to attend college after graduation from high school.
  • Viktor Vabishevich is a Junior at George Washington High School. Viktor is running his own lawn care and landscaping business called Vito Lawns.  Viktor plans to expand his business into a  commercial landscaping business that will pay his college tuition.

See the group’s Facebook page for photos and additional information.

People: Alexandre Scialom / Phoenix Wang
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