The Lean Lab’s education incubator program culminated Thursday evening with Launch[ED] Day, a demo day which saw two education startups walk away with $25,000 grants.
“Each year we’ve gained momentum little by little, and this is the first year we’ve recruited outside of the Kansas City area. All of these companies are passed the idea stage and have a viable product,” said Lean Lab co-founder Katie Boody. “There was a lot of positive energy here, which is really exciting.”
“It’s really humbling and exciting that my peers have recognized the hard work I’ve been doing,” said Andyshea Saberioon, co-founder of PledgeCents. “This is just the beginning of the work we plan on doing in Kansas City.”
In addition, each participating Lean Lab fellow received $10,000 in seed funding.
“The $10,000 that we received from the start we’ve spent on improving user experience for the students,” said Lida Zlatic, CEO of Class Tracks. “With the $25,000, we’ll be doing the same thing but for teachers. When (an app is) easier for teachers, it’ll get in the hands of more students. We’re really excited about that.”
Here’s more on the five 2016 Lean Lab fellows:
- Brydge is a web-based application that seeks to bridge the gap between the classroom and the home. Co-founded by Mehreen Butt, Richard Pettey and David Wilson, the Brydge application allows teachers to send three questions to parents per day encouraging after school conversation about what kids learned in class that day. Located in Jackson, Miss. and Tuscaloosa, Ala., Brydge is now doing business in Kansas City.
- Class Tracks is a web-based platform for English Language Learners based in Baltimore, Md. Co-founded by Lida Zlatic and Thierry Uwilingiyimana, Class Tracks seeks to help students learn and retain vocabulary so that they can keep up with their peers. The gamified experience was created due to Zlatic’s personal experience when she moved here as a child from Yugoslavia, and her experience as a language teacher.
- inReach connects college students with high school students to share direct experiences about college life. Based in Chicago, inReach’s application hopes to “demystify” the college experience — especially for first-generation college students. inReach was co-founded by Angie Rivera, James Cordes and Zach Layng.
- Meedu is a “gamified” application that encourages children to prepare healthy lunch options. From Kansas City and St. Louis, the nutrition solution was co-founded by Brice Jensen, Bob King, Doug Tree and Nadja Cajic.
- PledgeCents is a crowdfunding platform that offers a solution for teachers to get needed classroom resources without paying out of pocket. From Philadelphia and Memphis, PledgeCents allows teachers to keep what they raise whether or not they meet their crowdfunding goal. The platform gives a check directly to the organization, rather than the teacher, and is co-founded by Andyshea Saberioon and Kevon O’Rear.
During the demo day, community members were asked to evaluate their favorite pitch. The crowd favorite, inReach, was awarded the total of all ticket prices — which Katie Boody said is close to $1,000.
“Community has always been one of our core values, and it really takes a village to create change,” Boody said. “We wanted to put the power back in the hands of our community by giving them some agency. It’s a meaningful gesture more than anything.”