What a difference a year makes: LearnLaunchX demo day recap

Thomas Ketchell of Hstry at LearnLaunchX Demo Day (via Kyle Alspach)
Thomas Ketchell of Hstry at LearnLaunchX Demo Day (via Kyle Alspach)

Last year, LearnLaunchX, Boston’s edtech startup accelerator, hosted its first demo day. The location was  District Hall in the South Boston Seaport, which at the time had just recently opened. For last year’s event, the space was still unfinished, there was no coffee shop, and Gather, District Hall’s restaurant, wasn’t even close to being a reality. 

Since then, the space has been transformed into a true hub for innovation in the Seaport.

Similarly, for last year’s demo day, LearnLaunchX was also a work in progress. A year out, as witnessed by last night’s presentation featuring the accelerator’s second cohort, LearnLaunchX has also developed into a force for innovation in Boston as well.

With more than 60 mentors who have helped the companies in this year’s LearnLaunchX cohort, the program is attracting some key members of the startup community as well as influencers and thought leaders from business, government, and different levels of education.

Related: Check out Kyle Alspach’s slideshow of images from LearnLaunchX Demo Day

The event was kicked by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who couldn’t be there in person, but told the audience via video, “It has always been my belief that Boston can be the tech capital of the world, and today, it is clear, that we are on our way to becoming the edtech capital of the world.”

Walsh added that many edtech startups are choosing to make Boston their home because, “We have a strong education system, investors that recognize the promise of edtech, and accelerators like LearnLaunch.”

He concluded by saying that his innovation team and the department of New Urban Mechanics will strive to make the Boston Public School District the premier digital district by 2020, and asked the entrepreneurs and investors at the LearnLaunchX event to help the initiative moving forward.

Here is a breakdown of the seven education-focused startups that each gave a 10-minute pitch as part of last night’s event:

uConnect: Chief executive David Kozhuk presented uConnect, a more engaging job search platform for colleges career services departments. The product is already being used by schools like Bentley, which hasseen an uptick in post-school employment and grad school attendance, which may or may not be related to the launch of uConnect.

With a few more schools interested in deploying the tool next school year, uConnect seems to be on the right track as far as growth is concerned.

Campuscene: Dave Meyer pitched Campuscene, a platform for schools to engage with prospective new students. The platform offers virtual tours, interactive campus maps, and a way for prospectives to get a glimpse of the school’s presence on social media networks.

As part of the presentation, Meyer revealed that the company had just secured a partnership with Brown University.

QuadWrangle: Nick Zeckets presented QuadWrangle a new alumni connecting software service. The program, which can help schools’ development and fundraising campaigns, promises to bring more personalized engagement between schools and their former students.

However, one obstacle the company will need to overcome is the head start that Evertrue, a Boston-based alumni engagement app, already has in the space.

Book&Table: Is a platform to connect tutors with students. While there are many legacy companies in the tutoring industry, Book&Table’s Maurice Wright feels that the company has a insurgent strategy similar to what helped Airbnb make inroads in the rental/hotel booking space.

With 150 tutors in New York City and Boston already, Wright promises to have the best available tutors for students. As he explained, “The best educators means the best results.”

Scaffl: A tablet than can help teacher can only have been thought up by a former teacher. Scaffl’s Rita Chesterton has created a tablet that can serve as a “comprehensive workflow solution” to make the multi-faceted job of being a teacher easier to manage.

The company has some lofty expectations to live up to: More than 1,800 teachers have signed up to be notified when the product goes live.

Hstry: Last month, we became acquainted with Hstry through its Paul Revere Twitter re-enactment. The company is definitely leveraging the best aspects of social media to create more excitement about history.

As the company’s founder Thomas Ketchell explained, Hstry creates “hackathons” for history teachers and students to recreate historical events on social media. As one student who used the platform said, “It’s like Facebook for history.”

CueThink: CueThink is social and collaborative learning for math with a goal of making the subject more accessible to students. The reason CueThink believes it can succeed where others have failed at disrupting math education is, as the company’s chief executive Sheela Sethuramen said, that “students like learning from their peers.”

The company is already off to a fabulous start; it has received $900,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation.

To conclude, one of the biggest challenges of edtech is that there are quite a few companies trying to attack the same few problems. However, the teams coming out of LearnLaunchX seem to have gained an advantage in order to become a success due to their time in the accelerator.

It should be interesting to watch how the companies and LearnLaunchX continue to grow over the next year.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
Follow Dennis on Twitter - Google+