University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and the Milken Family Foundation Name Winners of the 2013 Education Business Plan Competition

Penn GSE Collaborates On Creation Of New “Education Design Studio Fund”

Finalists for the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition at the University of Pennsylvania on May 8, 2013 show their joy at competing (Gregory Milken, left of sign; Dean Andy Porter, right of sign). The annual Competition is quickly becoming known for picking some of the hottest edtech companies in the U.S. (Photo: Darryl Moran/Penn GSE)

College & University Pressroom

PHILADELPHIA--()--The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the Milken Family Foundation announced the winners of the 2013 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC), held on May 7-8 on the Penn campus. Raise Labs was the big winner of the day, earning the most prize money ever at the Competition with three $25,000 prizes – the Milken Family Foundation First Prize, the Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources and the K12 Prize for Online Learning in Grades K-12. Education entrepreneurs from 10 early-stage start-ups competed in the final phase of the competition, which features seven prizes totaling $145,000 in funding. In addition to the prizes, all of this year’s Competition finalists will be invited to participate in the Education Design Studio Fund (EDSF), a newly-announced fund initiative created in collaboration with Penn GSE.

In its fourth year, the Education Business Plan Competition attracts innovative ideas from around the world--with three previous finalists landing spots on Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of Gen-Y thought leaders who are reinventing education in 2013. Additionally, yesterday 2012 winner Jason Young of Mindblown Labs was named by American Express and Ashoka Changemakers® as a top innovator in the U.S., Canada and Mexico while attending the Competition.

This year’s finalists were chosen from a total of 250 applications from 17 countries. The competition stimulates cutting-edge ideas--whether local or global, profit or non-profit, or preschool through adult learning--that serve the world’s educational needs.

The ten competition finalists presented their projects—showcasing the best and most promising new ventures in the field—to a select panel of industry leaders on the Penn campus yesterday. The winning entrepreneurs are:

  • Raise Labs (Preston Silverman and George Kirkland/San Francisco) won the Milken Family Foundation First Prize ($25,000), the Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources ($25,000) and the K12 Prize for Online Learning in Grades K-12 ($25,000).
  • Persistence Plus (Jill Frankfort and Dr. Kenny Salim/Boston) won both the Milken Family Foundation Second Prize ($15,000) as well as the American Public University System Prize for Innovation in Online Education ($25,000).
  • Autism Expressed (Michele McKeone/Philadelphia) garnered the Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the Fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students ($20,000)
  • BiblioNasium (Marjan Ghara and Adele Schwartz/New York) earned the Erudient Education Prize for Innovation in Borderless Education ($10,000)

The new Education Design Studio Fund (EDSF) is a new ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, practitioners, and researchers dedicated to accelerating the rate of innovation in global education. EDSF, in collaboration with Penn GSE, will work with stakeholders in the investment and publishing communities and with the best providers of curriculum and programs to incubate edtech entrepreneurs. The EDSF will also further Penn GSE’s mission to bring education research to practice and involve students and faculty with innovation in action.

“The Education Design Studio Fund offers edtech start-ups the chance to collaborate with established and successful stakeholders, all of whom believe in the great potential of innovation in education and all of whom are personally and professionally committed to making it happen,” said Dr. Bobbi Kurshan, Executive Director of Academic Innovation at Penn GSE. “Special thanks are due to Dean Andy Porter and the University leadership for having the spirit and foresight to support the Education Design Studio Fund. On behalf of the EDSF, we will be extending an invitation to all of our outstanding finalists, the education entrepreneurs who will shape the world of tomorrow, to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.”

The EBPC competition was launched in 2010 as a partnership between Penn GSE and the Milken Family Foundation, and marks the first-ever funded education business plan competition. For more information go to:

The Milken Family Foundation was established by Lowell and Michael Milken in 1982 with the mission to discover and advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. The Foundation advances this mission principally through the various programs it initiates and carries out in the areas of education and medical research.

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, or check out Facebook at MilkenPennEBPC; Twitter: NESTCentral; the 2013 hashtag #MilkenPennGSE.


Penn GSE
Kat Stein, Exec. Director of Communications


Release Summary

Penn GSE announces winners of the biggest edtech business plan competition announced w/ Raise Labs sweeping 3 prizes for $75,000. New Education Studio Design Lab also to be created.


Penn GSE
Kat Stein, Exec. Director of Communications