‘Accelerator’ program launched for ed tech start-ups

New York City education tech startups, listen up: There’s a chance for you to win $170,000 and a comprehensive mentoring program to help accelerate your business.

Ed tech veterans Jonathan Harber and Don Burton are the masterminds behind EDGE, a New York City-based tech startup generator. They recently launched their 2015 EDGE Accelerator program, which will select 10 ed tech businesses to mentor.

The goal is to launch and foster ed tech startups attempting to solve the city’s toughest education problems across all stages of learning, from toddlers learning the alphabet to corporate training.

The mentorship program will run from September through December in New York City and feature some of the most powerful leaders from the financial, education publishing and tech industries as advisers. For example, this year’s mentors will include Luyen Chou, chief product officer at Pearson, and Evan Schneyer, who works in product management at Google.

Each of the 10 selected applicants will also receive $170,000 in funding for their business.

To help entrepreneurs secure their next round of funding, the classes will culminate in a Demo Day, in which they present their product to a network of angel and venture capital investors.

Education is a $7 trillion global industry, growing at a rate of 7% a year, EDGE co-founder Harber said. Ed tech startups are the future, as education becomes more reliant on technology.

“In the future, you won’t have a textbook, it will be digital, interactive content delivered on some kind of device,” Harber explained.

In fact, it’s already starting, he said, exemplified by the popularity of online classes and the use of tablets in classrooms.

But there’s still progress to be made.

“There are 57 million kids in the world that don’t have access to any education; there’s a huge gap in this country between the haves and the have-nots; a huge gap in our domestic unemployed; and corporations who are looking for workers but can’t find them,” Harber said.

To qualify for the Accelerator program, Harber said the EDGE selection committee will be looking for four key qualities: the intent to solve a unique problem in the education field; a product that’s either devised or already made; a selected test market; and passionate people in the company.

Harber and Burton each have years of experience working with ed tech startups. Burton ran a similar accelerator program with the education corporation Kaplan and Techstars, another startup accelerator company.

That program was so successful that Jonathan Dariyanani, a former Techstars/Kaplan accelerator mentee and co-founder of Cognotion — a company that focuses on tablet-based training for entry-level workers — called amNewYork from Saudi Arabia, where he was visiting on business, to gush about his positive experience.

“When we started our program, our company had not had any revenue yet, and when we finished the program we had about $3 million in revenue,” Dariyanani said, adding that Cognition has since raised another $3 million from the contacts he made through the accelerator.

Cognition also acquired board members through the program, including the former chief learning officer at Intel.

The program “was absolutely key to the success of our business,” he said. “I couldn’t possibly recommend it enough.”

Applications for the EDGE Accelerator will be accepted until June 25. Apply here.