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Education Venture Finalists and over $100,000 in Prize Funding Announced for 2018 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

April 3, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the Milken Family Foundation announced the finalists for the ninth annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) today. Selected emerging ventures include technology that seamlessly transforms coding projects into 3D-printable fabrications, after-school and school day debate programs for underserved youth, and interactive lessons for kids combining physical fitness with STEM education. As the largest competition of its kind, the EBPC features multiple cash prizes totaling over $100,000.

Considered the most prestigious and well-funded education business plan competition, the EBPC has earned a name for itself by attracting innovative ideas from around the world and spotting winning education innovations early on in their growth. The EBPC is now part of Catalyst @ Penn GSE, a collection and facilitator of unique, innovative initiatives at Penn GSE aimed at addressing persistent and emerging problems in education. "We are excited by this year's impressive group of EBPC finalists," said Michael Golden, Executive Director of Catalyst @ Penn GSE. "We look forward to showcasing these entrepreneurs’ unique approaches to improving learning."

The 2018 EBPC Venture Path Finalists were selected through a crowd-sourced judging process that includes practitioners, investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers. The finals will take place May 1 on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia. The finalists are:

101 (New York): An active learning platform using interactive technology to drive student engagement and improve student outcomes in college STEM courses.

ABAL Therapeutics (Iowa): Provides software that automates aspects of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the gold standard for interventional autism treatment, allowing therapists to administer therapeutic regimens remotely.

BlocksCAD (Massachusetts): A block-based, programmatic, computer-aided design (CAD) tool with which students code their own designs that can be fabricated on any 3D printer.

Curio Learning (Kentucky): An online space for teachers to discover new ideas, curate them visually, and collaborate with other teachers around the world.

Debate It Forward (Illinois): Utilizes collaborative, game-based, debate curriculum through after-school and school day debate programs focusing on students overlooked by the traditional debate circuits (young students, students of low-income, and students with learning or developmental differences).

MentorPro (New York): A platform that optimizes and coordinates the feedback process, facilitating communication between mentors and teachers to boost effective teacher professional development.

MindRight (New Jersey): Provides personalized, daily mental health coaching over text message to empower youth of color to heal from trauma.

Peerlift (Pennsylvania): A platform that connects high school students to a curated, crowdsourced set of college-based opportunities to democratize college access.

Poult Vault (Cameroon): A payment service that enables people in rural communities to pay for education and healthcare using crops and livestock.

SignOn (Michigan): A Virtual Immersion Program that enables American Sign Language students to immerse in 1-on-1 live sessions with the Deaf via a two-way video.

Unruly Studios (Massachusetts): Combines physical fitness with STEM education for kids to promote interactive experiences in Active STEM Play.

Previous finalists include Degreed, Tassl, and Caribu —all of which have gone on to grow their ventures, attract investors, and have a positive impact on education. The EBPC is made possible through the generous support of the Milken Family Foundation, American Public University System, Amazon Web Services, ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education, and Navitas Ventures.

The competition is an established leader in the field of education innovation and a key destination for education entrepreneurs. In December 2017, the EBPC named winners in its Idea Path, a competition for entrepreneurs that are earlier on in ideation and development.

The Milken family—several of whom are Penn graduates—embody the Franklin spirit through successful educational entrepreneurship—from pre-K services through college education for working adults—as well as investments in educational enterprises, have demonstrated a commitment to the leaders of tomorrow. In their four decades of philanthropic activities, the Milken family has made innovation in education—as exemplified by the Milken Educator Awards and National Institute for Excellence in Teaching—a cornerstone of their work. Visit the Milken Family Foundation for more information.

Penn GSE is one of the nation's premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge-building as the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

Find more on or follow the conversation on Twitter: @CatalystPennGSE and #MilkenPennGSE.

Jeff Frantz, Penn GSE Communications | 215-898-3269