Edtech startups graduate from the Pearson Catalyst for Education accelerator programme with “first class” honours.

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, today announced the wrap up of its first edtech accelerator programme Pearson Catalyst for Education. As part of a wider strategy by Pearson to collaborate with innovative education technology companies, this virtual programme, announced in February 2013, set out to identify the most promising startups that share Pearson’s commitment to improving people’s lives through learning.

The inaugural class of five startups ‘graduating’ today - ClassOwl, Spongelab, Actively Learn, Ace Learning and VLinks Media* - were chosen from a pool of over 200 applicants from around the globe. Over a three-month period, the startups partnered with Pearson business sponsors on pilot programmes to address specific opportunities and challenges put forward by Pearson teams. Through tailored mentoring sessions, the startups have had access to knowledge, talent and resources from across Pearson and its global network.

“Pearson Catalyst for Education reflects our desire to be more open and work with innovative companies to solve the biggest challenges in global education. Throughout the programme, we’ve connected the Catalyst startups with experts and business leaders from across Pearson," said Diana Stepner, head of future technologies at Pearson.

"All of them entered the programme with excellent product knowledge. Our aim was to help them increase their understanding of the global education market and break through on a global scale. We’re confident that these startups will go on to do great things and continue to transform education."

Moving forward, the Catalyst startups will continue to build on their pilot programs and explore opportunities to partner with Pearson, such as launching a new product together in the market or becoming an official technology partner through the OpenClass platform or the Pearson LearningStudio (a learning management system for fully online institutions). In fact, Ace Learning has already become a foundational partner via this arrangement, complementing Pearson’s existing product offering to customers; and ClassOwl is in the process of becoming a partner as well. 

Commenting on his experience of Pearson Catalyst, Ethan Linkner, co-founder and VP of operations at VLinks Media said: “Catalyst was able to help accelerate the business across all of our product lines. The direct contacts, as well as having access to a variety of mentors, provided us with the insight and expertise needed to reach the next level in our business. And, more importantly, we learned that producing results – no matter the size – is more important than showing a lot of activity.”

Jay Goyal, CEO and co-founder of Actively Learn, also part of the programme, added: “It’s different than any other accelerator programme in two main ways. Pearson is really open about how they think about the market – which they have incredible access to. Additionally, through the mentoring programme, we’ve been able to interact with real customers about their challenges and needs, which has helped us further refine our solutions.”

Stepner added: “The intersection of technology and education is one of the most exciting areas for entrepreneurism right now, and we have been blown away by the response to Catalyst and the quality of output from the participants. It’s been an inspirational few months; everyone involved from Pearson has learnt a tremendous amount from these startups, such as how to maintain creativity and passion, as well as the importance of remaining agile and jumping quickly on opportunities. And we can’t wait to begin working on the next class.”


For more information or to speak with Diana Stepner, or one of the startups please contact:

Marlin PR / Julia Nightingale / Pearson@marlinpr.com / +44207 932 5580

Pearson / Erin Farber / erin.farber@pearson.com

Notes to editors

*The five graduating startups from Pearson Catalyst for Education:

  • VLinks Media, a platform that gives world-class content creators the ability to deliver courses to learners on mobile devices and the web. (Chicago, Illinois USA)
    • Catalyst challenge: Test preparation
    • Biggest achievement: The team created a highly scalable mobile practice app that can deliver course content on an iPhone across multiple disciplines. Plans have also been made to expand to more devices depending on the initial market feedback.
  • Spongelab, a science education website for teachers and students that provides a free online collection of multimedia including educational games, videos, images, and lesson plans, with a focus on game-based learning. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
    • Catalyst challenge: Health profession simulations
    • Biggest achievement: Spongelab created a virtual clinical environment for teachers and students within the medical field, allowing them to take the theories that they are learning and apply them in realistic ways in a simulated space. Moving forward, Spongelab plans to further develop its platform technology.
  • Ace Learning Company, an institutional and publisher platform, as well as a direct-to-student marketing website powered by LearningAce.com. (Los Gatos, California, U.S.A.)
    • Catalyst challenge: Premium content as a service
    • Biggest achievement: Ace Learning Company worked closely with a leading MOOC to create a content-as-a-service plug-in that relevantly and seamlessly renders asset-level premium content into its learning platform. This plug-in enables MOOC providers to embed Pearson content on a freemium basis and also creates a "publisher and student-friendly" hub that can be applied to premium or open content from any third party.
  • ClassOwl, a social academic platform that provides a single planner that allows students to follow their classes and student groups in one place, created by a multidisciplinary team of Stanford University undergraduate students. (Palo Alto, California U.S.A.)
    • Catalyst challenge: Develop new student services
    • Biggest achievement: ClassOwl was able to integrate their academic and social planner into Pearson’s OpenClass platform (a dynamic and free learning environment that helps educators bring social learning and experiences to their students). Moving forward, ClassOwl plans to launch its mobile application and open up its private beta to a few more key pilot schools.  By the end of 2014, it plans to be at 20 new schools, finalise its integrations with the major learning management systems, and grow its mobile presence to any students looking to increase performance in school.
  • ActivelyLearn™, an online e-reader that empowers teachers to reach students inside a digital text. (Seattle, Washington U.S.A.)
    • Catalyst challenge: Repurpose existing digital content into a new digital offering
    • Biggest achievement:  Actively Learn, which had previously targeted K12 users, was able to pilot its e-reader with a new user segment in higher education. This included professors who are Pearson customers and over 100 college students. Students really understood the value of the product, citing that it “increased critical thinking,” “drew attention to particular themes,” and “helped with focus.”

For more information and a chance to participate in 2014, visit catalyst.pearson.com and watch our video here. Follow @PearsonLabs and #PearsonCatalyst on Twitter to get the most up-to-date news about Pearson Catalyst.