There are dedicated startup accelerators helping new companies get off the ground, covering almost every technology sector — with a massive gap for education, that is. After Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, pointed out the discrepancy, Google executives Tim Brady, Alan Louie and Geoff Ralston took up the challenge and founded Imagine K12, an accelerator aimed squarely at the education sector.
Paying compliments to the man who inspired the idea, the founders say that they wish to become the Y Combinator for edtech startups, a rather ambitious goal considering that since its founding five years ago, YC is now on a frenetic pace as it helps up to 75 startups launch at the same time.
Imagine K12 isn’t pushing off new companies at quite the same rate just yet, but late last week they did get together to celebrate the launch of iK12′s third group of companies by hosting a Demo Day in Palo Alto, California.
Following the YC and TechStars model, Imagine K12 set out to find promising young startups, offering to support their early coding sessions and product testing with a little seed capital (ranging between $14K to $20K in exchange for an average of 6 percent equity), work space and coaching on everything from accounting to how to pitch investors. Although the founders weren’t initially sure the model would work for education, they received 100 applications for their first class, and things have grown steadily from there.
Among standouts showing off for company guests and potential investors were CodeHS, an online program that aims to introduce students to the basics of computer programming. Following the path blazed by companies like Codeacademy, CodeHS hopes to set itself apart by partnering with schools to bring their program directly to the classroom. CodeHS comes complete with a programming curriculum, videos and other academic materials, making it is easy to deploy and customize even for teachers who lack a background in coding.
Another entrant, edcanvas, boasts an impressive pedigree. Its founders are formerly of Microsoft, and they have created a tool that will allow teachers to organize and retain all their digital teaching materials. Edcanvas even allows students to contribute media, videos, links or text while giving the teacher the tools to organize these materials in an attractive, Pinterest-like presentation.
NoRedInk, a superstar at the recent Education Nation summit, impressed again.
NoRedInk is the humanities-focused sibling of Digit Whiz. Created by long-time high school English teacher Jeff Scheur, the startup offers an easy way for students (and everyone else) to improve their awful grammar and writing skills. NoRedInk’s learning engine generates personalized curricula from students’ interests, creating feedback, tutorials (and even color-coded heat maps) based on students’ preferences and their areas of proficiency.