Ed-Tech Startups Invited to Apply for State Digital Directors’ Program

Associate Editor

Ten ed-tech startups will be selected by the State Educational Technology Directors Association this year as “emerging partners” to meet state digital learning leaders and get insights into the K-12 market.

Applications are now open for the program, which focuses on finding companies that are “innovative and creative in solving problems that exist in the market,” said Melissa Greene, the director of strategic partnerships for SETDA, in an interview.

Now in its sixth year, the Emerging Private Sector Partnership Program introduces leaders of ed-tech startups to state officials who lead educational technology efforts, and also to executives from much larger companies that partner with SETDA, which is a nonprofit. Typically, between 50 and 75 companies apply, said Greene.

“One of our priorities and part of our mission and vision is to encourage ed-tech product development and grow the pipeline to develop new solutions needed by the states and the districts in the states that we serve,” Greene said. “We want to secure relationships that align with our initiatives and advocacy agenda, with companies who want to improve education.”

At the same time, the national organization benefits because the emerging partners “help teach us about what’s up and coming, what’s new,” said Greene.

Generally, SETDA defines a startup as a company that is five years old or less, or new to the U.S. market. “We’ve recently started cultivating relationships with the Australian embassy and Canadian companies,” so even if the ed-tech companies applying for partnership are older than five years, they would qualify as a startup in the U.S. market, Greene said in an interview.

Companies invited to participate in the emerging partners’ cohort last year were selected from a pool of applicants based on their status as an emerging company, capacity to leverage technology to serve a need in PreK-12 or pre-service education, and their potential to scale on a state-wide and multi-state basis, the association said. The companies selected in 2017 included CatchOnCignition, Inc.Level Up VillageMathspace, Inc., and Open Assessment Technologies.

Throughout the year, partners have an opportunity to join online meetings, webinars, and focus groups with the digital learning leaders who are SETDA members. They can also participate in the SETDA leadership summit in Washington, D.C., gain insights from a full day of professional training, and make connections with the larger companies that are major private sector partners of SETDA like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

The emerging partner application is due by April 1, and companies that are selected pay a $5,000 fee. New members are chosen and introduced at a breakfast kickoff before ISTE, the large ed-tech conference and trade show that will be held in Chicago this year.

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