Greater Baltimore and the Chesapeake region have a vibrant edtech ecosystem with over 270 companies supporting education innovation. Last Thursday, 20 of those companies pitched and demonstrated their products at TU Incubator’s fourth annual EdTech Innovation Showcase.
The annual event has continued to grow since TU Incubator, Towson University’s business incubator, first hosted an edtech (education technology) networking event five years ago. Since then, the incubator has supported 66 companies who are solving problems in K-12 and higher education.
“What impresses me most about these companies and their founders is their dedication, to not just growing successful ventures, but to having a real impact on student success and educators,” said David Cross, assistant director of Venture Creation, who manages TU Incubator. “Student success is such an important problem to solve.”
For Tucker Glotzbach, student success is about helping high school students going through the college admissions process find a school that fits them best. His startup, Induck, is an online college guide that goes beyond what a marketing team wants you to know about their campus.
“We gather information about campus life through long-form interviews from current college students. A user can then use our website and find someone similar to them to learn about their college experience, both academically and socially,” said Glotzbach.
High school students use the website to better understand what a day in the life of their college experience might look like. This can be especially helpful for first-generation or LGBTQ students, who may not know what resources, experiences, or groups are available to support them.
Induck is currently working with Friends School of Baltimore and The Park School of Baltimore to pilot their platform.
Student success isn’t only about being accepted into college and successfully graduating.
Ortus Academy, founded by Aaron Velky, is an experiential, game-based learning program for improving kids’ financial skills.
“Learning about money can change the way that young adults see the future and see possibilities. And, as of three hours ago, we launched the world’s first online financial intelligence community,” said Velky during his two minute pitch on Thursday.
Ortus Academy’s Money Club is designed to give users, ages 14 to 25, self-awareness around money and asks questions like, ‘How will the choices you are making now affect your future? and Are you robbing your future to live today?’
“In a world where I can Venmo you in 15 seconds, the dialogue of money isn’t changing,” Velky said. “Our program is designed to give someone self-awareness around money, whether they’re deciding to go to school or not.”
The EdTech Innovation Showcase also provides a space where founders can learn from each other. Like most founders, Velky and Glotzbach never pass up an opportunity to pitch their companies.
“We started as a non-profit and have grown into a corporation over the last three years. TU Incubator helped us through that transition,” said Velky. “It’s cool to see what other people are doing and how the EdTech space is evolving. You never know who you’ll meet or where those connections will take you.”
“This event is not only a great networking opportunity, it’s a chance for us to learn from other TU Incubator member companies,” said Glotzbach. “It’s great that I’m sharing the floor with companies who are further along than we are. I’m able to see how they pitch and learn from it.”
Connecting member companies to campus
TU Incubator supports both resident and virtual startups, more than 75 percent — about 25 — of the startup members are working in edtech. “Their work aligns with the university’s expertise and core competency of teacher preparation. We leverage these resources to help our member companies succeed and support student success at TU,” said Cross.
Currently, five member companies are actively working with Towson University. This includes CampusESP, a parent and family engagement platform and recent incubator graduate. The company has a contract with Towson University to send parent communications via their platform to keep parents engaged and to increase student success.
Other member companies are collaborating with the Faculty Academic Center for Excellence at Towson and the College of Education, where faculty members are connecting with TU Incubator member companies to collaborate on research or are testing products.
Ortus Academy’s Velky thinks it’s important to be inclusive of the entire campus community.
“Where an incubator, like TU Incubator, can be progressive is to hold this event on campus, allowing students and faculty to see what’s possible,” said Velky. “TU Incubator, and the TU community, does well when students see entrepreneurs being successful.”
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