EdTech Community Gathers from Far & Wide for LLX Demo Day

The packed audience awaits presentations on the main stage. (Photo Credit: Laurisa Neuwirth, ETT)

The packed audience awaits presentations on the main stage. (Photo Credit: Laurisa Neuwirth, ETT)

Yesterday the Best of Boston’s EdTech innovators unveiled their products and business plans to a packed house at the brand-new District Hall.

These seven early-stage companies, the first class of Education Technology accelerator LearnLaunchX, drew a crowd that gave new meaning to the adage “It takes a village…” The diversity of the audience, including 100+ investors, demonstrated a stunning combination of support for and interest in the EdTech field.

Here’s what those from the investor community, the local ecosystem, and attendees from across the country had to say:

Show Me The Money: It’s quite a schlep from San Fransisco to Boston, but David Havens from New Schools Venture Fund made sure to be here. Why? He sees EdTech as a “must invest” market, and the seed fund has made investments in over 20 early-stage EdTech companies since early 2012.”As a company we want to change the fact that education has traditionally been left behind in investment. Technology is now able to scale the best innovations to the students who need it the most, and we invest in people who can really to change the whole field of education.”

Angel investor and serial entrepreneur John Landry sees EdTech, along with Healthcare, as the two most promising fields for investment. “True,” he says, “EdTech is a new field for angel & venture folks. We’ve stayed out because education is a hard space to sell in, and doesn’t have a lot of money. Now, all that remains the same. What’s changed is the cost of very high-impact technology, like we saw today, it is now affordable and in-line with the market, and it makes sense.”

While recognizing the particularities of the education technology market, angel investor and LaunchPad Ventures member Don Perrin’s take on the EdTech market was optimistic: “Low barriers and easy adoption in both higher ed and private k-12 schools, as well as the business community, which are areas I am familiar with, make them attractive markets.”

LearnLaunchX's Demo Day was held at District Hall, the new center of Boston's Innovation District

LearnLaunchX’s Demo Day at District Hall, the new center of Boston’s Innovation District (Photo Credit: Sheri Cheng, ETT)

With a little help from my friends: “These startup companies are essential.” says Jay Halfond, a former Dean at Boston University who devotes time mentoring LearnLaunchX companies because “the future of education is being invented right here, through technology, in creative ways. ”

Another LLX supporter, Thomas Garriepy describes the value in giving back: “Mentoring these companies is an opportunity to be at forefront of developing companies who are turning brand-new ideas into useable tools for the education industry.”

One of the first founding sponsors of the EdTech accelerator was Nelson Mullins, and partner Jim O’Hare was “so pleased with the fantastic turnout. It’s indicative of how LearnLaunchX is bringing awareness to the viability of the EdTech market, and shows Boston is no longer a developing cluster, it’s a really active cluster already.”

Boston EdTech CEO Mike Sweet Mike Sweet of Credo Reference knows first-hand the growing power of the EdTech cluster and sees that “existing barriers to entry are no longer strong enough to keep out the innovations we offer today, the market is demanding it.”

Keeping the show moving was emcee Doug Banks, Associate Vice President for Economic Development at University of Massachusetts who also has a strong background as a technology journalist. “When you think about the strengths of the Massachusetts economy, at the top are Education, Technology and Innovation. When these three areas all work together, like they are in EdTech right now, it’s only natural that good things happen and this event is evidence of that.”

Hey, whatcha doin’ over there? This event got drew attendees from all over the nation, and one one of the most insightful was Preeti Birla, who works for the New York City public school system (the largest in the country) to build bridges between the school system and technology startups. “It’s all about building a stronger ecosystem around EdTech to address the cracks in the infrastructure of our education system.” Gordon Rogers heads up the Atlanta EdTech cluster and decided to see the EdTech scene here for himself, and to build connections between the two clusters. Both of them must have felt right at home, at an event which had the same focus and drive to foster EdTech innovation.

For more pictures and details from the event founders and companies, check out ETT’s article + gallery.

"It takes a village..." (Photo Credit: Sheri Cheng, ETT)

“It takes a village…” (Photo Credit: Sheri Cheng, ETT)

Laurisa Neuwirth

Laurisa Neuwirth

Laurisa Neuwirth is a shameless evangelist on behalf of the Greater Boston innovation economy. With a diverse background including software development, philanthropy and human capital, Laurisa blogs about technology disruptions in industries that are critical to our local economy. You can follow her @LaurisaNeuwirth.