LAUNCH Education & Kids 2012

LAUNCH Education & Kids Conference Day 1

LAUNCH Education & Kids 2012

Here is a roundup of the first day at the LAUNCH Education & Kids Conference. Alicia Chang is on site and tweeting as well as interviewing the startups back stage. Videos of her interviews will be available later this week or early next week but here is a picture of the EDUKWEST studio at LAUNCH.


The first day started with a short welcoming speech by Jason Calacanis saying that “education is the last big market to disrupt”. In good tradition he also introduced a drinking game during the presentations. Every time a presenter mentions “Khan Academy” the audience has to sink two shots. Every time they hear “guide on the side vs sage on the stage” it’s three shots. I suppose Jason and the team heard both a lot during the rehearsals. During the time I watched the live stream I hears at least eight times “Khan Academy” hence if someone in the audience was playing along they probably had a funny event.

The keynote of the day was given by Marshall Tuck, CEO of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a non-profit that aims to lift up the worst-performing schools in the LA Unified School District. The Principals report to the organisation during a five-year performance contract. If the schools don’t improve in that period, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools doesn’t keep the contract.

Following the hashtag #launchedu on Twitter I could see that the keynote definitely struck a cord with the audience. You can also check out the live blog over at LAUNCH to get an overview of what Marshall Tuck talked about.

After a short break the first batch of startups presented their products on stage to the audience and judges. Jason and the team not only invited the usual tech and VC / angel crowd to the event but also made sure that teachers and children were in the audience, a fact that played out great in the feedback discussions of some products. To “bribe” the kids Jason also brought a huge bag full of toys to the event. Each kid that gave feedback and or asked questions to the startups on stage was then allowed to pick one.

The judges for the first batch of startups:

  • Ted Maidenberg – Social Capital Partnership
  • Marshall Tuck – Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
  • Alan Louie – imagine K12
  • Robert Scoble – Rackspace | Building 43
  • Christine Tsai – 500 Startups
  • Stefan Weitz – Bing

JoyTunes – Playing with Music | @joytunescom |

JoyTunes turns playing music on a “real” instrument (piano, flute etc) into a game. The app connects via the inbuilt microphone of the device (iPad, Android device etc), picks up the sound and includes it into the game.

PlayTell – Make memories, not small talk | @goplaytell |

PlayTell is an iPad app that connects family members (parent & kid or grandparent & kid) to read books together even if they are not in the same room. Via webcam and interactive ebooks they can read together and also interact with the book in a natural way like pointing at things, turning pages etc.

Always Prepped – Manage & Analyze K12 Apps | @alwaysprepped |

Always Prepped takes all the different services like Khan Academy, Edmodo or Study Island teachers are using to help their students and puts all the learning data into one dashboard. The most intriguing part is that teachers can also add social data to the mix, like knowing about the divorce of the kids parents, that the dog died etc in order to get a more educated view on the performance of the student.

The judges felt that the service might be (too far) ahead of the curve but teachers in the audience were absolutely stoked by the possibilities.

Demo Lesson | @demolesson |

Demo Lesson is an online platform for hiring teachers. It makes the usual long and tedious process very easy and efficient. Teachers who search for a job fill out their profile, upload a short demo lesson video and can then search and apply for open positions. School administrators can quickly flip through the applications, watch a short snippet of the recorded lesson and invite the teacher for an interview.

Sifteo | @sifteo |

Being a long time fan of the Sifteo cubes I was especially happy to see them present at LAUNCH. Sifteo cubes mix the classic game play of using actually figures or other stuff with interactive elements. Later this year Sifteo is going to announce new partnerships bringing “characters we know and love” to the cubes.

The judges for the second batch of startups:

  • Jose Cabaler
  • Vivek Whadwa
  • Alan Louie – imagine K12
  • Robert Scoble – Rackspace | Building 43
  • Christine Tsai – 500 Startups
  • Stefan Weitz – Bing

Gather Education | @gathereducation |

Gather Education is a virtual classroom platform and marketplace that enables teachers and student to interact online as if they were in a physical class. Using common hardware like a Microsoft Kinect, a tablet and bluetooth headset.

Penyo Pal | @penyopal |

Penyo Pal teaches children Mandarin on the iPad through games like Food Frenzy which tests how fast the player can identify different food.

Learn Street | @learnstreet |

Learn Street is an online platform to learn programming languages like Python, Ruby, Javascript. Each language starts with a beginner course and learners unlock new lessons as they go. There is a progress bar for each lesson and an intro video sets stage for each course.  Learners can apply what they learned in CodeGarage and tinker with existing code.

Kno | @goodtokno |

If you are a follower of EDUKWEST you are of course familiar with e-textbook platform Kno. One of the interesting take aways of their presentation was that it takes Kno about 12 minutes to turn any textbook into a Kno version.

Timbuktu | @timbuktumag |

Timbuktu is an iPad magazine for kids and their parents. Each day the app will deliver a new activity or story for parents to play and share with their kids. For example one day an animated story about cricket and how it works. The next day and infographic on things that happened at night, how many flights started, how many breath you took. The following day explore your home for vampires, following instructions on Timbuktu.

Launchpad Toys | @launchpadtoys |

Launchpad Toys is building digital legos with a similar philopshy to Sifteo. First app was Toontastic which enables kid to draw, animate, narrate own cartoons and share. Kids creating 300k cartoons every month.

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at

  • Anonymous

    Great stuff!

    • Yeah, and it’s only the half of it 🙂 Working on part 2.