pinflix yespornplease

K12 just got (re)Imagined. Or, notes from Demo Day.

Imagine K12 Logo

Imagine K12 is an incubator for companies unafraid of taking on Education.

I just had the privilege of going to the Imagine K12 demo day. At the beginning, the founder of InstaGrock said something along the lines of “welcome to the revolution.” My eyes glazed over. 5 years ago, I gave up on the idea that anybody was going to “revolutionize” Education. By the end of the presentations, I wanted to give the companies a standing ovation. I don’t know if it’s a revolution, but there is a dramatic shift in Education that is just beginning. And it’s time to get really, really excited.

The take-away, by far, is that companies are getting traction.  Lots of it.  And quickly.  Edmodo and ClassDojo, it turns out, are just the start.

TeachBoost, LearnSprout, Hapara, Socrative, InstaGrok, LearningJar, EdShelf, BrainGenie, Tap to Learn.  All of them (are you ready for this?) know what they are doing.  Gone are the days where entrepreneurs were either completely naive to the Education world or hopelessly inept at building great products.  We’ve got both, baby.  In spades.

Best of all, every single company that had launched had significant growth and traction amongst teachers, students, and districts in the MONTH OF APRIL.  Yeah, you heard me.  They are almost all showing HOCKEY STICK level growth in the Education space.  Granted, they are all early, but there is reason to believe that this time change is gonna come.  And it’s been a long time coming.

Each of these companies deserves their own post, so I’m not going to leave a trail of one sentence descriptions.  Just go to their sites and get the scoop.

Tap to Learn probably won the day, thus their closer status.  In the spirit of Brian Wilson (closer for the SF Giants), they made me giddy.  2 million children are using dozens of their learning game apps on the iPad.  Their games are genuinely fun, AND parents can get learning analytics.  250,000 minutes of “study” aka “game play” got logged YESTERDAY.

So Kudos, IK12 companies. Kudos to Alan Louie, Geoff Ralston, and Tim Brady for collecting a great motley crew of emerging companies and budding entrepreneurs.  This time, the seeds of transformation that are sewn are looking like they’re going to sprout.

Leave your thoughts and your ideas, and give a round of applause for the new talent in EdTech.  And, shouts to my friends at @LearningJar, @LearnSprout, and @TapToLearn.  You nailed it.



15 Responses to “K12 just got (re)Imagined. Or, notes from Demo Day.”

  1. Kirill Kireyev May 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Thanks for a great post Michael. Small correction: it’s “instaGrok” not “instaGrock”. And I’m glad my “revolution” comment wasn’t a complete flop! 🙂

    • mpstaton May 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      Corrected! Thanks for stopping by!

      • Roby John May 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

        Thanks for great write up.

        Important Correction though, it should be 250,000 minutes per day (not hours), we will make it hours the next time you write about us, not just yet (give us a few months)


        • mpstaton May 2, 2012 at 7:10 pm #


          And, I expect 250,000hrs in an order of month. Heck, I’ll give you three. I’ll come to that Board meeting. Free cookies?


  2. Snehal Patel May 2, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Nice post Michael! I think you hit the nail right on the head man. I concur with your thoughts RE: “a dramatic shift in Education that is just beginning” a lot of this of course is happening in the bay area (which is why I moved out of my beautiful 2600sqft. home in AZ into a dinky little 400sqft. apt. in Palo Alto & loving it!)
    Great to hear companies are getting some level of Product-Market fit earlier (i.e. traction).
    I think we’re going through a special, dare I say “magical” period in ed innovation that people will look back upon decades from now. Sokikom is excited to contribute our part in that!

    • mpstaton May 3, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

      I’m pumped your with us!

  3. Elizabeth Evans May 2, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    Hi Michael:

    Really interesting list of instructional tools. And I can see how a “revolution” of sorts can flow from innovative technology that helps teachers engage kids of all sorts in productive learning. But, I wonder how do all these fancy tools help with the bigger, harder problem–the one you talked about around the time “Waiting for Superman” was released: ” It’s harder to be a visionary leader in public institutions, it’s too political. It’s possible, but wherever politics is involved, building a culture of achievement is extremely difficult.”

    I agree that visionary leadership is indispensable (or at least a vision and the leadership to get a system aligned around the vision). I am worried that all the innovation in these tools will never crack the big nut–giving all American students a fair chance to gain knowledge and skills– if we don’t figure out how to fix our public administration.

    What do you think?

    • mpstaton May 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I think we could have a very long coffee about this, and this is the important issue. All these cool apps will not solve the larger challenges around getting our students to succeed in school and prepare for the world.

      However, what these apps can do is make everyone’s life just a little easier, save just a little time, give better layers of information, keep everyone on the same page just a little more. Each app in and of itself, while could be a breakthrough in terms of the number of people it serves, is only helping education to make incremental progress. But if you add up the sum of increments, you end up with a breakthrough level of progress. If the very real humans behind these apps use them as empowerment tools, then we will be able to move in the right direction faster, and with a better user interface 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts. Hope we get to have that coffee sometime.


  4. Elizabeth Evans May 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Yes, I agree Michael on making life a little easier, giving more time for the important stuff and reaching kids effectively. And, maybe that will give teachers the space to speak up for the leadership they deserve in public education–the only solution to that “vision thing” that allows all of us to put politics before education. I started VIVA Teachers, for just that purpose–to elevate teachers’ influence in policy and to draw clearer distinctions between workplace and professional issues.

    Make no mistake, I don’t think every teacher is flawless, that teachers should have unquestioned authority or that we can respect teachers just because they care so much about kids. All that rhetoric (and more) around collective bargaining is such a red herring.

    I worked with a group of teachers in Chicago who had a lot of ideas about how to use technology to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. (look on our website for their ideas). The big difference is that the Chicago Public Schools system actually listened to them and is starting to change policy to promote better use of better technology in practice. This has opened up all kinds of interesting conversation & new lines of trust between working teachers and the people responsible for the system they work in. I do think the vision thing is critical and if we are investing in this kind of technology, we need to link it to a clear articulation of what we expect teachers to accomplish and measures for how we’ll know if they’ve done it.

    I fervently believe that we have to make the dynamic I described in Chicago the exception and not the rule, all the cool tech tools in the world won’t make a hill of beans of difference in the big picture of making sure all students have a chance to learn.

    Yup, lets get that coffee sometime.

    • Adrian Sannier May 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      Michael…lots of us have revolution fatigue, having spent decades in this space with the massive change “just around the next corner”. If no one has ever gotten rich betting against the US as Warren Buffet says, its equally true that no one has made much money betting on the speed of change in the education market. That said, I think something’s different this time…the consumer market is ready, with widespread broadband and the new crop of end-user devices that have crossed over into daily life…I feel the same energy. Maybe this year is the one where we change the world!!

      • mpstaton May 15, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

        Hi Adrian,

        Thanks for chiming in. I agree. There’s something different.

        For a few years now, my about me on Facebook has been “My idealism and ambition was once slain but is slowly resurfacing.” I think it’s back.

        Good to see you in DC. I like your stump speech. Still confused about why the borg is letting you build a product that makes sense. It’s not something they would normally do. Should be featured in the book Resonate.



  5. Matthew Ho May 15, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    Cool write up about the Imagine K12 demo day.

    Really interesting seeing who’s a part of it and great to see the energy and enthuasism of those tackling problems in this space.


  1. - e-Literate - May 5, 2012

    […] after I published this post, I got a pointer (thanks, Audrey) to teacherpreneur Michael Staton’s great post about the state of K-12 ed tech start-ups. It is highly relevant. All I can say in reply is, […]

  2. Monday Morning Movers and Shaking — Monday May 7, 2012 « Ancora EDU - May 7, 2012

    […] K12 just got (re)Imagined. Or, notes from Demo Day — Michael Staton, EduMorphology […]

  3. Edshelf: An Educational App Directory for Teachers | App Crush - May 30, 2012

    […] where its latest cohort of startups made their pitches to investors. I pointed to the write-up of Inigral’s Michael Staton in my weekly roundup of ed-tech news, but I realized this past week that I’ve done a […]

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image