That the ed tech market is picking up speed is getting more obvious with the announcements of four new startup accelerators, all focusing strictly on the education technology industry, that have hit the news this year. Two of them also boast an impressive educational pedigree because they will be part of two of the most well-established companies in the sector.
Last week, one after the other, Kaplan – in partnership with TechStars – and Pearson announced that they will be launching startup programs to oversee the development of promising education technology ideas. According to GigaOM, that will make a total of three incubators with strong corporate support behind them.
While Kaplan's program will follow the model of other TechStars programs (mentorship, space and capital in exchange for a bit of equity), Pearson is taking a slightly different approach with its incubator, called Catalyst. Ten accepted startups will continue to work from their own locations and mostly receive remote access to Pearson executives and product experts. They'll each receive a $10,000 stipend for travel and other expenses (to enable meetings with their mentors and others), and will have the opportunity to present at a Demo Day at the end of the program.
Uniquely for an incubator, Pearson has indicated that it will not be taking an equity stake in the companies it shepherds through its program. Instead, the company might seek to invest directly in the startup during the fund-raising stage, although acceptance into the startup program is no guarantee that the money will be forthcoming. In addition, Pearson might seek to become one of the clients of the companies it accepts into the program by licensing or purchasing the technology they develop.
Last month, two additional, more traditional accelerators also opened their doors, and one of them – Socratic Labs – already announced its freshman slate of companies. If Pearson and Kaplan follow the same timetable, the announcement of the companies that made the cut for their incubators will be announced before the end of first quarter of 2013.
Pearson's name and position as a potential acquirer could appeal to founders, as could the fact that its program doesn't take equity. But while Pearson's program only provides mentorship from Pearson executives, Kaplan's accelerator, which will be based in New York, carries the weight of the TechStars brand and offers access to a wider group of mentors.
Supporters include ed tech founders Udemy CEO Eren Bali, Kaplan's CEO Andy Rosen, and General Assembly CEO Jake Schwartz, as well as TechStars co-founders David Cohen and Brad Feld, Columbia University's chief digital officer Sree Sreenivasan and others.