Announcing the Final Teams at Chicago StartupWeekend EDU


As we start the final day at Chicago StartupWeekend EDU here’s an update on our 10 finalists rounding the final stretch for presentations tonight Sunday September 22nd at 5:00 pm (join online)!  Note, these just may be ranked in the author’s personal estimation of the team’s merit:

  1. • Adjunct, Inc. ( pitched by the dean of National Louis University College of Business and Management (Go NLU!), Adjunct grew out of a major pain point in higher education to find, recruit and contract with adjunct faculty, made all the more complicated with increasing education and healthcare regulation.  Adjunct plays into a rather investment theme around distributed labor networks and, honestly, is one of the better ideas I have heard in the last month — and I was at the Kaplan TechStars Demo Day and BMO Back to School conference last week!  In fact, the idea reminds me of Victor Young’s Flinja as well as our Sponsor WyzAnt.
  2. • PDEngine ( pitched by founder Dan Rezac (also an NLU alum!), PDEngine grew out of another pain point in education, namely the typical summer rush for K-12 teacher professional development (both for existing teachers and new college graduates).  Targeting the informal end of the $1 billion market for professional development (i.e. “PD”), PDEndine is initially a search engine to find professional development courses and content online and “near me,” but will also expand to help digitize, store and track PD credits.  Originally tasked as both a StartupWeekend EDU coach and our lead media sponsor, Dan has had to keep one foot in the hackathon bullpen and one in the EdReach Green Room.
  3. • ClassTrack ( pitched by noted post-secondary education researcher and consultant Dr. Sally Beatty, this mobiel app will track student attendance for externships and internships, a process typically rendered by hand today.  Of particular note, this idea generated requests for meeting or other initial interest from DeVry, Career Education and the University of Phoenix over the weekend, just from Sally’s surveys seeking to validate the concept!
  4. • Fantasy Learning (domain forthcoming): this idea to teach international political science through fantasy gamification is so brilliantly simple, it went over my head, so I asked Josh Salcman to share his synopsis: “Fantasy Learning grew out of social studies teacher Eric Nelson’s passion for finding innovative ways to get his students engaged in current events. When he started allowing his students to draft and trade countries, giving them points when countries in their roster appeared in current news stories, he found they were learning geopolitics–and discussing it amongst themselves!”
  5. • Tap2Connect ( the amazing wife and husband team Summer and Matt Rosenstock actually separately pitched two concepts at Chicago StartupWeekend EDU on Friday, both around parent-teacher-children communications.  The Tap2Connect team is seeking to build an integrated, extensible platform streamlining parent-teacher communications that will work with across the disparate legacy systems (SIS, gradebooks, etc.) found within a typical school.  As distinct from a Remind101 freemium teacher installed web app, Tap2Connect will work within and across the traditional K-12 technology stack.
  6. • Goods for Grades (domain forthcoming): Eric Berthene’s incentives platform for low-income households to spend more time on academics has been secreted away in a breakout room, so the suspense has been building here on the hackathon floor as to what exactly they are cooking up.  But it appears to revolve around centralizing, standardizing and helping to implement and track the various one-off corporate and foundation managed student attendance incentive programs (i.e. Pizza Hut ‘s BookIt, Noodles & Co. perfect attendance, etc.)
  7. • Learn to Launch ( pitched by consultant and aspiring entrepreneur Laurie Stach, Learn to Launch is a technology-powered entrepreneurship education program intended to be offered via high school classrooms.  In this way, they seek to centralize and professionalize volunteer efforts like Junior Achievement and create a plug-and-play model for high school teachers.   This idea grew out of the 4-week Launch Summer program taught by MIT and Harvard Business School professors in Boston.
  8. • Life Certified (, @thetotalself)): Long-time Educelerant Grant Hensel and his team are working on  a new alternate credentialing system to note, share and track one’s informal learning accomplishments, all structured around action verbs (i.e. “read”, “attended”, “met”).  As a personal aside, while there are obviously no shortage of new alternative life experience-based certification plays including those offering credits (LearningCountsDegreed) or badges (Credly, YouTopia), but I do like the idea of a simplified social bookmarking community for learning (call it “badgemarking”).

We cannot close this post without sharing a few remarks on some of the finalists we lost over the night, namely Tiny Heroes (who, despite all their heroic might, just ultimately proved too tiny).  Also, of note TrueCoach was limited to a two person team who will continue working on a business plan to automate online the typically sole practitioner industry of coaching (as was Virtual Financial Coach, a financial literacy gamification learning from Ramon Rodriguez, a participant in the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge, who managed to push his idea further along at StartupWeekend!).

Godspeed and good luck to the rest of our teams!