Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition 2014

Overview: The Six Winners of the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

Last week the Milken-Penn Foundation announced the winners of the 2014 business plan competition in partnership with GSE. Eight of the twelve finalists won prizes ranging from $5000 to $25000. In total the edtech startups earned $140k in price funding.

The annual competition is one of most renown and funded in the space. This year finalists and semi finalists also have been invited to participate in the Education Design Studio, Inc. (EDSi), a Philadelphia-based $2.1 million hybrid incubator-seed fund that was launched in the fall of 2013 in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Osmosis receives $50k from Milken Family Foundation and The American Public University System Prize

OsmosisOsmosis won the first prize of The Milken Family Foundation, worth $25k as well as The American Public University System Prize for Innovation in Online Education, also worth $25k.

Osmosis builds a web based and mobile learning platform for medical students using machine learning algorithms and cognitive techniques to help the learner to “osmose” content. The mobile applications offer features like push notifications and spaced repetition, sending out questions, images, videos and mnemonics to help students study and recap on the go.


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Totus Power receives $25k from the Milken Family Foundation and the TSL Education Borderless Education Prize

Totus PowerTotus Power won the second prize, worth $15K and the TSL Education Borderless Education Prize, worth $10k. Totus Power develops a portable battery pack used in classrooms in developing countries like India.

According to the startup most classrooms in India, Kenya or other countries in the developing world are suffering from frequent power cuts which turn devices like tablets, laptops or projectors unusable.

Jupiter6, the portable battery pack developed by Totus Power is based on technology used in electric cars. It is safer, ten times cheaper and weighs ⅕ of regular battery backup systems. It also has a longer lifespan, around three times compared to regular devices and needs no maintenance.


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ProfessorWord receives $20k from the Educational Services of America Prize

ProfessorWordProfessorWord, an application that enables students to collect SAT and GRE vocabulary while browsing the web won the Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students, worth $20k.

Students simply install a browser plugin which then automatically highlights relevant SAT/ACT vocabulary in the text displayed in the browser. Besides getting the definition of the vocabulary, students will be able to save it to a personal learning list. ProfessorWord is free to use and works with most modern web browsers.

ProfessorWord will also offer tools for teachers like analyzing texts for complexity aligned with Common Core, a searchable database as well as teacher and student profiles to enable progress tracking and other analytics.


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Branching Minds receives $25k from the K12 Online Learning Prize

Branching MindsBranching Minds, a web-based tool to identify students with learning challenges won the K12 Online Learning Prize for Innovation in Technology for Grades K Through Twelve, worth $25k.

Branching Minds uses a series of questions with teachers or parents to identify potential difficulties. Based on the data, the startup recommends personalized supports which are all curated by learning specialists, clinical and school psychologists and veteran special educators. The platform also enables teachers to track the progress of the student and create reports for school administrators and parents.

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eduCanon receives $15k from the McGraw-Hill Education Prize

eduCanoneduCanon, an interactive video teaching platform won the McGraw-Hill Education Prize for Open Educational Resources, worth $15k.

eduCanon enables teachers to create interactive lessons around YouTube, Vimeo or TeacherTube videos. Through the platform teachers can link questions to certain parts of the video, turning the passive watching into active learning. eduCanon also offers teachers analytics on student performance and can be used in different classroom settings from 1:1 to blended learning environments.


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Ubongo receives $5k from the Halloran Philanthropies Borderless Education Social Impact Prize

UbongoUbongo creator of the first educational cartoon series in Tanzania received the Halloran Philanthropies Borderless Education Social Impact Prize, worth $5k.

Ubongo aims to show children in Tanzania the fun of doing math through cartoon episodes that involve local characters and stories from the region the learners can identify themselves with. The team chose the medium of television as Internet and smartphone penetration is still very low in Sub Saharan Africa but 37.5 million households have a TV. On top of that tens of millions watch TV in commercial screening spaces.

Last month Ubongo successfully closed a Kickstarter campaign which will enable the team to translate the first series from Kiswahili into English, enabling children from English speaking African nations like Nigeria or Malawi to learn with the cartoons.


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Further Reading

  • Entrepreneurs Earn $140,000 in Prize Funding at the 2014 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition at the University of Pennsylvania Today | Businesswire

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