More than 200 ed tech startups competed for prizes in the fifth-annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition & Conference.

Jun 02 2014

8 Ed Tech Startups Earn $140,000 for Innovative Ideas

An app that helps medical students retain information took top honors at a recent competition.

A group of ed tech entrepreneurs earned a total of $140,000 for startup ideas making waves in education.

More than 250 technology startups focusing on the education market applied for the fifth annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition & Conference in May. Twelve finalists were selected to show off their work for a piece of the financial prize, but two companies took home the bulk of the winnings.

Philadelphia-based Osmosis won the $25,000 first prize for their work on Osmosis Med, a learning app for the web and iOS aimed at helping medical students retain information. The app is powered by algorithms and cognitive learning techniques that allow students to "learn by osmosis." The free app is already in use by more than 10,000 medical students, according to the company’s blog.

App co-creator Ryan Haynes and his partner, Shiv Gaglani, came up with the concept for Osmosis as first-year medical students at Johns Hopkins University, according to an interview on LeadLearner.

"We realized we were forgetting things almost as quickly as we were learning them," says Haynes.

The duo combined their backgrounds in neuroscience and education to create the app. Osmosis also earned a $25,000 award from the American Public University System Prize for Innovation in Online Education.


San Francisco–based Totus Power came in second for their development of Jupiter6, a portable battery pack designed for classrooms in developing countries.

The device is already at work in India and Kenya, where power is unreliable and frequent outages disrupt the use of most classroom technologies, including tablets, projectors and notebooks. The battery pack is made from materials that power electric cars, and was designed to be lighter and to last longer than comparable battery devices, according to EDUKWEST.

Totus earned the $15,000 second prize and $10,000 for the TSL Education Borderless Education Prize.

Philadelphia-based ProfessorWord is a K–12 web app that uses an innovative approach to teaching vocabulary. It works alongside students while they’re reading content online, teaching them the meaning of words in context.

ProfessorWord was awarded $25,000 from the Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in Special Education and At-Risk Students.

Branching Minds, another K–12 startup, received special recognition for a web tool that helps educators identify learning challenges in students. Using advancements in neurosciences, the tool asks teachers to fill out a brief questionnaire that helps them discover what’s blocking a student’s path to learning. It can also track the progress of students with difficulties and create reports for parents and administrators. The web tool won a $25,000 award through the K12 Online Learning Prize for Innovation in Technology.

The complete list of winning entrepreneurs includes:

  • Milken Family Foundation first prize ($25,000) — Osmosis
  • Milken Family Foundation second prize ($15,000) — Totus Power
  • American Public University System Prize for Innovation in Online Education ($25,000) — Osmosis
  • Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in Special Education and At-Risk Students ($20,000) — ProfessorWord
  • K–12 Online Learning Prize for Innovation in Technology ($25,000) — Branching Minds
  • McGraw Hill Education Prize for Open Educational Resources ($15,000) — eduCanon
  • TSL Education Borderless Education Prize ($10,000) — Totus Power
  • Halloran Philanthropies Borderless Education Social Impact Prize ($5,000) — Ubongo