AT&T Launches Aspire Ed Entrepreneurship Accelerator


AT&T’s People and Community site asks a pointed question: Are you on a mission to use technology to enhance learning and help every student achieve a bright, successful future?  If the reader answers in the affirmative, the next next step is to apply  to join the very first AT&T Aspire Accelerator class.

The company describes technology as world-changing, especially in the areas of how we communicate, how we work, and how we play. And, it is changing how we learn.

Mobile technology, applications, and services are empowering students to achieve, removing barriers to graduation, enabling teachers, and preparing today’s learners for the jobs of tomorrow.

Organizations that want to use technology to help students succeed, to make schools and communities stronger, and to position learners for employment, says the site, should apply for the Aspire Accelerator class. The tool will connect educators with resources, services, expertise, and relationships needed to “drive exponential change in how we learn.”

The idea is to help organizations working on a product or service that uses technology to support students’ educational and workforce success. Through the Accelerator, AT&T will make an investment of $50,000 and will add $25,000 to cover program expenses.

Member organizations will also be part of a broader AT&T Aspire initiative in education that is nationwide. The program will offer access to expertise, services, and relationships that are tailored to  the participating organization during the six month program.

Many accelerators require on-site participation, though Aspire Accelerator does not. AT&T and mentors from the education and technology sectors assist in helping organizations create change, and program collaborators will include organizations like Full Circle Fund, Idean, NestGSV, and Runway.

The Aspire Accelerator board of advisors includes: Charles Best, founder and CEO of; Romana Pierson co-founder and  CEO of Declara; Elizabeth Corcoran, co-founder and CEO of EdSurge; Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity; Daniel Lurie, c0-founder and CEO of Tipping Point; and Ben Jealous, partner at Kapor Center for Social Impact.

AT&T has launched Aspire as part of a $350 million commitment to improving education. Unlike most other accelerators, the primary measure of success for the Aspire Accelerator is societal impact rather than monetary return.

“Technology is changing how teachers manage their classrooms, how students digest information, and how parents and administrators communicate,” said Charlene Lake, Chief Sustainability Officer, AT&T. “The AT&T Aspire Accelerator is designed to support and scale ed-tech ideas that make brighter futures — ideas from for-profits and non-profits that want to make a difference.”

 Potential areas of focus include, but are not limited to: mobile applications that drive education outcomes; platforms for teachers, students and/or parents; learning and curriculum management tools; assessment and outcome tracking platforms; education distribution (online instruction, courses, etc.); and increased access for existing best practices.

“The start-up community is in a unique position to have a positive social impact on the education of our youth,” commented Ben Jealous, Partner at Kapor Center for Social Impact. “The Aspire Accelerator’s innovative model could lead to new ideas that help to level the playing field for students everywhere. I’m honored to be a part of the Advisory Board and look forward to seeing the results.”

Of the $50,000 investment, AT&T will receive up to 5% of equity in the endeavor from for-profit entities. Non-profits receive the funding in exchange for participation in the program and by meeting certain program requirements, such as submitting impact measurements, says Dian Schaffhauser reporting for Campus Technology.

Extra credit will be given to applicants who create projects that will focus on reaching or impacting at-risk students. Requirements for applying are that the team is already working on a product or service that supports student educational or career success; it must have the start of a viable product and proof of product-market fit; the team must have at least one member who will participate in the Aspire Accelerator.

Also, Khan Academy has received a $2.25 million contribution from AT&T as part of Aspire program to support its new mobile learning solution, according to IT Business Net. It is a free online library of learning resources which brings interactive, personalized learning to students through problem questions, handwriting recognition, and other innovations.

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