Last Thursday, 150+ people packed TU’s Minnegan Room for the EdTech Innovation Showcase.
Hosted by TU Incubator, the networking event featured two-minute lightning pitches as well as product demonstrations from 19 of the region’s top education entrepreneurs who are solving today’s K-12, post-secondary, and workforce challenges.
For presenters, the event was about connecting with potential partners and funders.
For attendees, the event was about connecting with new products.
For TU Incubator, the event was about connecting products to people.
Connecting Products to People
In his opening remarks, TU’s Director of Venture Creation, Frank Bonsal III, noted that entrepreneurship is driven by people. “When you start a company, that’s all there is — people. The fact that you all showed up this evening, indicates that you believe in what we’re doing here,” said Bonsal.
In fact, there was a concerted effort on TU Incubator’s part to get the ‘right’ people in the room.
“Tonight’s goal was to get our people [TU Incubator member companies] in front of key decision-makers and influencers to develop partnerships, whether with a new customer, an investor, or a strategic partner,” said Bonsal
Invited guests included administrators and educators from public and private k-12 and higher education sectors, as well as larger education companies, and investors from greater Baltimore.
At the 2016 iteration of the showcase, several representatives from Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K-12, were in the room. Their interaction with Speak Agent, a company based out of Montgomery County that focuses on scholastic achievement for English language learning, led to a pilot program with the edtech industry leader.
The pilot is launching this fall.
An EdTech Focus
Out of the 19 startups who participated last Thursday, 18 are member companies of TU Incubator. All focus on edtech, or education technology, and all desire to help innovate in 21st century teaching, learning, and administration.
As Maryland’s top producer of teachers, TU is constantly working to enhance educational experiences and integrating technological advancements into education.
Beginning in 2014, TU Incubator began leveraging this reputation and made a concerted effort to attract edtech companies to campus. In April 2017, TU Incubator hit a major milestone when a majority (75%) of their member companies were edtech-focused, with 25 edtech companies.
Today, TU Incubator supports the largest cluster of edtech companies in Maryland, and the mid-Atlantic region.
Laurie Mullen, PhD, Dean of TU’s College of Education, encouraged the presenting edtech innovators to work with her faculty to help improve teaching and learning. She pointed out that InferCabulary, one of the presenting TU Incubator member companies, was already working with the college on a pilot program for the company’s visual vocabulary and reasoning program.
“I do have a soft spot for those of you looking to move forward teaching and learning,” noted Mullen.
Growth and Impact
Underlying Thursday’s event was TU Incubator’s 10-year anniversary.
Since launching as Towson Global Business Incubator in April 2007 with five companies, TU Incubator has grown to support 30+ concurrent member companies, over 80 companies since inception. During its 10-year history TU Incubator has worked with Baltimore County to support venture creation and economic development and has had a major impact on the region’s economy.
- TU Incubator and its member companies have had over a $150+ million economic impact on Greater Baltimore and Maryland
- Member companies have raised over $30 million in outside capital
- Member companies have created over 1,000 jobs
In remarks made at Thursday’s event, TU President Kim Schatzel echoed these successes. She noted that small businesses, including TU Incubator member companies, are the backbone of the U.S. economy and that small firms employ over half of the private-sector workforce.
Matt Doherty, Founder & Principal of the Trailhead Group, called the event “one of the more efficient events I have seen in some time.” He also took note that the president and multiple deans and vice presidents attended the event, saying “Their presence demonstrated the institution’s buy-in.”
Although the EdTech Innovation Showcase is about making connections, it is ultimately about continuing the success of TU Incubator and its member companies well into the next decade.