Asad Butt is the operations director of LearnLaunchX, an EdTech accelerator in the Greater Boston Area which accepted its first batch of companies on June 10th 2013.
The Greater Boston Area is a center for innovation, entrepreneurship and education, where EdTech companies are extremely dynamic. As one needs very specific skills when working in education, an EdTech accelerator became necessary to support these budding companies.
Asad, who has always had a taste for entrepreneurship, became passionate about EdTech while studying for his MBA at Boston University (BU). There, he noticed many hurdles in education that could easily be over-passed by using technology. His innovative ideas even won him a prize at a competition held by BU’s Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commericialization EdTech projects competition.
LearnLaunchX recently graduated its first seven companies, who have each received:
– $18,000 in cash,
– a co-working space with other EdTech startups,
– access to mentors and advisers, as well as an EdTech focused curriculum based on topics relevant to each startup.
The accelerator features companies such as Cognii, a powerful language processing technology which analyses students’ essays, and Educanon, an interactive video lesson platform. While LearnLaunchX’s activities are very similar to that of LearnLaunch, the two companies are separate entities with different actors and goals.
We were lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with Asad and ask him a few questions about LearnLaunchX, and his entrepreneurial journey:
Do you consider yourself to be an entrepreneur? Other than the BU EdTech projects, what events/opportunities have had a strong impact on your entrepreneurial life?
I definitely have an entrepreneurial mindset. I’ve worked at a few startups throughout my career that have impacted my entrepreneurial life. My experience includes helping launch a national tv station in Buffalo and an international non-profit that used new technologies to bridge the cultural gap between high school students in the Middle East and the United States. Most recently, I’ve worked on a few of my own startup projects that have allowed me to get a fuller understanding of what it takes to for new companies to succeed.
How is LearnLaunchX different from LearnLaunch?
LearnLaunch and LearnLaunchX are sister organizations, but LearnLaunch is a non-profit company that aims at creating a community around EdTechs by organizing events like conferences.
LearnLaunchX is an accelerator program for a group of early stage EdTech companies that are selected through a rigorous application process, while LearnLaunch is a non-profit which focuses on expanding the ed tech ecosystem in the New England area. It offers classes, peer group learning, conferences, networking opportunities and other educational services to all individuals and organizations seeking to work with educators, students and families to enable the growth and success of the EdTech and learning ecosystem. Overall, the business model for LearnLaunchX is similar to accelerators’ business models.
How is the selection made?
Seven companies were selected among the many applications we received based on their potential, team spirit, scalability, sustainability, and uniqueness. Out of all of our candidates, over 35% were international!
For more information please visit: http://learnlaunchx.com/who-we-work-with/
What are the current big trends in EdTechs?
A lot of products are created around the common core. Many startups also focus on addressing the issue of fees in education and helping to include more and more people in the pursuit of knowledge.
Nowadays, it is becoming easier for EdTech companies to grow because parents and teachers have become far more open to technology than they once were. There are now many teachers who implement new teaching methods in schools, and the younger generation of teachers are bringing in fresh new ideas.
Are local universities involved in LearnLaunchX? If yes how?
Local universities are not directly involved in LearnLaunchX, though LearnLaunchX has relationships with many top schools. However, many of our applicants are students who have created EdTech solutions to solve problems they face in the classroom.
What is your business model? Do you take equities? Sponsorships?
Each company receives up to $18k in seed funding, a collaborative place to work, thousands of dollars worth of in-kind services, and intensive mentoring. In return, LearnLaunchX takes a 6% equity stake. We also have sponsors, all of whom are dedicated to expanding the EdTech ecosystem.
Who provides the financial backing for this project?
LearnLaunchX has private investors committed to the growth and success of EdTech startups.
For more information on entrepreneurship in the US, visit http://www.hubtech21.com/.