Calling all edtech ventures: applications open for AT&T Aspire Accelerator


AT&T wants to help edtech startups developing promising new products for schools.

The telecommunications giant’s Aspire Accelerator is taking applications from technology firms seeking funding for promising products that support students and teachers. Those products can range from including mobile apps, learning and curriculum management tools, assessment tracking platforms or online courses. Special consideration will be given to solutions targeted at students who are on the brink of dropping out of school.

The deadline to apply is Feb. 5.

AT&T will offer $100,000 as an investment to the companies, and an additional $25,000 for each startup to cover expenses of the program. It will also provide mentorship from experts in the education and technology industry.

Last year, AT&T selected five winning ventures out of 350 applicants, Their products are used across mobile and computer platforms, including a new system for managing schools’ devices and software, a writing assistance software, an interactive video platform and a producer of educational games. Collectively, their products reached more than 2 million students, 200,000 teachers, and 4,500 schools across the country, according to a press release from AT&T.

Among the awardees was GradGuru, which developed a mobile application for students to track deadlines and reach milestones with the promise of a reward.

“The big take-away for GradGuru was that we really do have a business that can scale and grow, and we’re making social impact,” founder Catalina Ruiz-Healy said in a video. “Our goal is to get to a hundred colleges in three years and a million users in five.”

The accelerator program is open to both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Ventures don’t need to relocate to complete the program. Five ventures last year came from Baltimore and Washington, California, North Carolina and New York.

This year, the accelerator invited eight leaders in educational technology companies to serve on an external board of advisers.

“We need to welcome ideas from every corner that use technology in innovative ways to help students succeed,” said Nancy Poon Lue, one of the advisers and executive director of the ASU GSV Summit, which brings together edtech companies each year. “The Aspire Accelerator’s unique focus on helping both for- and non-profit ed-tech ventures thrive is already having an impact. I’m excited to join the Board of Advisors and see what the 2016 class will achieve.”

The Aspire Accelerator was launched last year as part of the telecom company’s $350 million commitment to education. The corporation’s foundation will make final decisions and kick off the program in May. Candidates will have six months to complete their projects and show off their demos in October.

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