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South by Southwest Education: 10 new ed tech startups about to grab the spotlight in Austin

Tim Newcomb | March 8, 2017

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LASRSXSWAs the ed tech industry continues to expand, breaking into the game means facing stiffer competition from companies keen on occupying the same space. But as teaching, student learning, and the delivery of educational content continue to evolve, there has never been a greater opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students.

Few arenas spotlight, critique, or celebrate the newest ed tech efforts quite like the South by Southwest Education Conference & Festival. At the center of it all: the live, rapid-fire Launch Competition, which gives new ed tech innovators a stage, and platform, to make their best pitch.

(More at The 74: The 17 Must-See Panels at 2017 SXSWedu)

Just getting to Austin, Texas, for the sixth annual competition, which runs through Thursday, was a challenging process for the 10 finalists — startups that focus on everything from teaching literacy to autistic students to crafting virtual reality educational content. Now, they have an entirely new challenge ahead of them as they seek much-needed exposure that could win them feedback, investments, and partnerships.

The 10 startups will compete in an initial lightning round, making a pitch in front of a panel of eight judges. The top three finalists will earn a callback to vie for the title of 2017 Launch Competition winner.

Here are the 10 companies set to take the stage at this year’s SXSWedu Launch Competition:

Adjunct Professor Link, Valparaiso, Ind.

Institutions of higher education need qualified experts to fill voids in multiple departments. Adjunct Professor Link aims to connect colleges with the right educators to serve as adjunct faculty. The startup provides a “digital tool for institutions to manage their adjunct faculty recruiting and performance data.” Plus, the company gives adjunct faculty a source for instructional resources.

ALEX, Anyone’s Learning Experience, Washington Township, N.J.

Online sites connect budget-conscious travelers with empty hotel beds every day. ALEX does the same in the higher-education world, providing an online marketplace where individuals can take single in-person courses at universities and vocational programs. The service connects working learners with skills and classes that can help with career advancement without massive financial or time commitments.

ASD Reading, Las Vegas

ASD Reading puts a focus on children with autism spectrum disorder. Using what the company calls “innovative content and methods,” ASD Reading says it represents a “game-changer in the field of ASD literacy and language development,” enabling even children who are nonverbal to achieve success in reading and writing with comprehension.

Cell-Ed, Palo Alto

In an on-the-go world, free time can sometimes be found only in snippets before the next task surfaces. Cell-Ed redeems those chunks of time at three minutes a pop. The tech company teaches skills — from language and literacy to job training—in three-minute lessons via audio and two-way texting on any cell phone, tablet, or computer.

LlamaZoo, Victoria, British Columbia

LlamaZOO’s platform merges highly interactive educational 3-D with augmented and virtual reality to create a more digitized and engaging student-educator experience, with such applications as adaptive quizzing and spaced repetition. The company hopes to broaden the reach of educators, in turn empowering the next generation of students.

Quizling — The Knowledge Game!, Canberra, Australia

Learn about your community in the classroom! Quizling seeks to connect curious students with the world by working with world-class galleries, libraries, and organizations to build a platform that teaches kids through content, game play, and a “fun quiz platform.”

Sown to Grow, Oakland

A growth mindset teaches students that they can learn, improve their situation, and ultimately succeed. Sown to Grow believes it can teach this mindset through its goal-setting and reflection platform, which enables students to create goals, enter their performance results to track progress, and then write reflections on their goal — all with the aim of continuous improvement.

TeachersConnect, Boston, Mass.

TeachersConnect wants to help educators stay connected to one another to help prep content, understand new regulatory requirements, or make evidence-based changes to their curricula. Started by a successful writing teacher, TeachersConnect aims to build a set of resource tools accessible by all teachers.

The Graide Network, Chicago, Ill.

Feedback is a key motivator for student success, according to The Graide Network, whose online platform connects K-12 teachers with on-demand assistants to grade and provide feedback on student work. These graduate and undergraduate aspiring educators (i.e., students) provide teachers with the capacity to provide far more feedback for their classes.

The Whether, by Better Weekdays, St. Louis, Mo.

Matching college graduates with their best-fit employer has long been a tricky proposition. But The Whether, powered by Better Weekdays, wants to get students started on their career journey — and let educators facilitate the process — through its app’s job-matching technology and personalized user experience. Keeping relevant internships and jobs on a student’s radar creates the “ideal conditions for students to interact with career services and brands in a whole new way,” according to the company.

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