Startups Reap Long-Lasting Benefits From an Innovation Cluster


When I was a reporter for WBUR, the local NPR station, I covered the robust education sector in Boston. Dozens of colleges and universities are in the region, as well as some of the largest educational publishers.

I realized that high-quality NPR audio stories could be valuable for meeting the needs of middle and high school teachers and that I wanted to form my own venture to make that a reality. In 2014, I jumped into the sector when I started Listenwise, an ed-tech company that builds students’ listening skills using a curated collection of podcasts and public radio.

I had the vision for my company, but lacked the industry connections. When I learned about a new business accelerator that focused on education, I jumped at the chance to apply. I was admitted to the first class of the LearnLaunch business accelerator. It was and continues to be the most significant thing to happen to my business.

Guidance From Experienced Entrepreneurs

Joining a collaborative network focused on ed tech has benefited Listenwise, and me, in many ways. It guided me on how to build a fundable company and gave me warm introductions to investors. Since participating, Listenwise has managed to raise well over $1 million in seed capital.

I also developed long-term relationships with mentors, met companies to partner with, and formed supportive business friendships with other ed-tech companies. Most importantly, LearnLaunch introducted me to my business partner, who has been vital to our growth.

I embraced the mentoring and saw it as an opportunity to get advice in areas where I lacked experience. These initial mentors helped me build my first financial model, helped set a go-to-market strategy and write a technical design template.

One of my mentors introduced me to the first large education company that we partnered with. And one of those mentors became my business partner and COO.

LearnLaunch saw that building the ed-tech community in Boston is about more than one accelerator. It’s about bringing together like-minded companies to work together, learn together and grow together.

Supporting New Ed-Tech Startups

Four years later, Listenwise has grown tremendously and the cluster has grown with us.

From our business vision, to our first customer, our first industry award, and on to our first hundred customers, we are still learning and building connections throughout the community. Our growing team is housed within the LearnLaunch co-working space because we continue to learn and find value in that community.

And because they have given so much to me, I feel excited to give back to this valuable community.

An education cluster would not be able to grow without funding. The leaders of the ed-tech sector in Boston are also investors in the ed-tech sector of Boston. They put their minds and their money in ed tech and they encourage others to do the same.

Being an early part of the Boston education innovation cluster has been important to me and I feel invested in growing the sector and supporting new ed-tech companies following my path.

Photo credit: Asad Butt, LearnLaunch

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One thought on “Startups Reap Long-Lasting Benefits From an Innovation Cluster

  1. Hi Monica, I like the story of how you made Listenwise a success. Leveraging the availability of the target market within reach and creating something that mutually benefits your passion in the broadcasting industry as well as the students who need to improve their listening skills since not all would really admit to themselves that they lack it. Startup businesses always has a lot of options to consider, whether go buy or lease a space depending on a budget but then the ideal one is to be in a collaborative or coworking environment wherein you can grow your business network, and be able to share insights with like-minded people or entrepreneurs that someday could help your business achieve heights.

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