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San Francisco Accelerator Boosts 5 Higher-Ed Startups

A business accelerator focused on technology for higher education has named its first cohort of startups. Michelson Runway will be working with five fledgling companies to help them make connections to institutions and others that can help them ramp up their technology. The organization is a collaboration between two organizations: Runway, a tech incubator located in downtown San Francisco in the same building as Twitter, and the Michelson 20MM Foundation, which supports initiatives to bring innovation to education that makes it more affordable.

That initial group encompasses:

  • Lrnr, which uses continual forms of student assessment to create personalized combinations of instruction and content out of open and commercial educational resources;
  • Motimatic, a service that feeds motivational interruptions into a student's favorite apps and online sites;
  • Pragya Systems, a program powered by IBM Watson with three uses: developing learning pathways that map with a student's interests and recommending relevant campus resources as part of a "personalized learning stream," tying coursework to experiential learning and career-related resources and bringing data together from different campus resources for improving campus efficiency;
  • ReUp Education, which works with schools to find students who have dropped out of college and support their re-enrollment and subsequent academic goals through graduation; and
  • WorkAmerica, which provides a service to hook up job seekers in colleges and employers in "the trades," particularly, allied health and IT.

The accelerator provides investments and other forms of support — office space, legal and financial guidance, mentoring and pilot opportunities with institutional participants. Four California institutional partners are involved in the venture: the California State University Chancellor's Office, San Francisco State University, Brandman University and the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

"Technology has the power to be a catalyst in higher education by connecting underserved students to institutions, keeping them engaged and on track to graduate and improving the transition to the workforce," said Gary Michelson, founder of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, in an announcement. "Each of these companies focuses on the unique needs of today’s diverse student population. Together, they create one very strong force for change."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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