GSE education competition names four Philadelphia finalists

The Education Business Plan Competition aims to promote educational entrepreneurship

· April 24, 2014, 9:31 pm   ·  Updated April 25, 2014, 1:35 am

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Four Philadelphia-based education projects will compete against eight others in a business plan competition sponsored by the Graduate School of Education.

GSE and the Milken Family Foundation will host the 2014 Education Business Plan Competition on May 13 and 14. The EBPC, an annual event which aims to promote educational entrepreneurship, invites education innovators to compete for cash prizes sponsored by various organizations. This year, competitors may also be chosen to join the Education Design Studio, Inc., a hybrid incubator and seed fund for education ventures launched in collaboration with GSE in fall 2013.

The EBPC is renowned for finding innovative ideas just starting to grow. This year, there are finalists from around the United States and even one from Tanzania, an interactive educational website called Ubongo.

The Philadelphia finalists include SmartyPal, Inc., Osmosis, ProfessorWord and Scholly:

--SmartyPal, Inc. (smartypal.com) creates apps suitable for children ages three to seven. It uses animated storytelling and interactive learning scenarios to facilitate fun, personalized education. The website, which also features a “Parent Portal,” was founded by Wharton MBA graduate Prasanna Krishnan and Wharton professor Kartik Hosanagar .

--Osmosis (osmosis.org) targets medical school students who want to learn how to ace their classes and the MCAT. It features a smartphone app with push notifications and customized quizzes. The website’s cofounders, Ryan Haynes and Shiv Gaglani , are both master’s degree candidates at Johns Hopkins University.

--ProfessorWord (professorword.com) aims to teach its users SAT and ACT vocabulary through any website they go on. ProfessorWord highlights the relevant words on each website, and allows users to learn each definition by just clicking on the highlighted word . The website has both student and teacher accounts, as well as options for those learning English.

--Scholly (myscholly.com) helps students easily find scholarships. The website, which also has an app, provides a way to pay for one’s education without student loans, despite rising tuition costs. Scholly is run by a team of tech entrepreneurs.

Past winners of the EBPC include Philadelphia-based Autism Expressed (autismexpressed.com), which won the 2013 $20,000 Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the Fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students.

Autism Expressed teaches digital skills to autistic students to prepare them for a technology-driven job market. It is the first and only such interactive learning system. Michele McKeone , a Philadelphia public high school teacher, founded the website.

This year’s 12 finalists will be flown to Penn’s campus to pitch their ideas to a team of investors, researchers and entrepreneurs. They will compete for eight cash prizes sponsored by seven different companies.

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