Following are profiles of the twenty-three aspiring entrepreneurs selected to participate in the inaugural class of the Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Program. These founders will be immersed in an intensive, hands-on program designed to catalyze the creation of high-growth companies to generate thousands of jobs with dramatic economic benefits in the education sector.
Austin Cooley of Gainesville, Fla., is creating a unique online learning platform where experts can create immersive software tutorials, which can be purchased and streamed through a next-generation video marketplace.
Austin is a technology entrepreneur with a passion for education, music, and life-changing software and technologies. He most recently worked as a software engineer with Lockheed Martin, and he holds a BS in computer engineering from the University of Florida. While earning his degree, Austin volunteered his time coordinating SECME, an engineering competition for K-12 students that focuses on hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning techniques. His passion for teaching extends to music, where he volunteered as an instructor at Studio Percussion, a local Gainesville non-profit music studio. Austin also was awarded a scholarship to study sustainable energy technologies in Freiberg, Germany.
Niko Ralf Cunningham
Niko Ralf Cunningham of Cambridge, Mass. is building a one-stop, subscription-based online "dream factory" for American families excited about their children's ambitions; connecting middle school and high school students with distinct passions to college student groups that share those same interests.
Niko has been invited into the living rooms of more than 8,000 families throughout the rural Midwest and Northeast selling educational books, homework study guides, and software door-to-door. While having conversations with parents about their children's dreams, he became convinced that there was a better way to answer the question "What do you want to do when you grow up?" A proud Detroiter and first-generation college graduate, Niko earned a BA in economics from Columbia University, holds an Ed.M. in technology, innovation & education from Harvard University, and is a member of The Order of the Golden Fleece at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Jill Frankfort and Kenneth Salim
Jill Frankfort and Kenneth Salim of Boston, Mass., are developing an educational technology solution and service grounded in behavioral research and network science to increase the likelihood that students successfully complete college.
As a program director at Jobs for the Future, Jill works to create, scale, and sustain schools and districts where all students achieve college success. With more than ten years of experience as a strategy consultant and education professional, Jill possesses product development and marketing expertise, and a deep knowledge of instructional and school reform issues. Previously, Jill advised Fortune 1000 clients at Simon-Kucher & Partners, and served as a strategy and marketing manager at Idealab, co-launching and developing early stage companies. She received a BA with honors from Brown University and a M.Ed. from Wake Forest University. Jill also is the author of 100 Paid Summer Adventures for Teachers.
Kenneth is the senior director of the Chief Academic Office at Boston Public Schools, where he leads and implements district-wide academic initiatives. Kenneth's areas of expertise include instructional leadership, district reform, professional development, and college readiness. Previously, Kenneth served as a classroom teacher, the district's director of New Teacher Support, and a Boston College faculty member. Kenneth also is board president-elect of Learning Forward, the leading international association for professional development. The first member of his family to graduate from college, Kenneth earned a BA at Brown University and will receive his doctorate from Harvard University's Urban Superintendents Program in May 2011.
Matt Garmur and Jason Young
Matt Garmur of Oakland, Calif., and Jason Young of San Francisco are developing a next-generation web and mobile platform that combines aspects of social gaming with hands-on money management experience to provide financial literacy instruction for students ages ten through eighteen.
Matt is a self-professed jack-of-all-trades who wants to make a difference in the world through education. Since graduating from Swarthmore College with degrees in computer science and music, he has worked as an assistant admissions director at a prestigious private school, a guitarist and vocalist in a professional acoustic band, and a software engineer and freelance programmer, while also defending his status as a national-level Ultimate Frisbee player.
Jason started his first business, a full-service travel agency, at age thirteen. The first child in his family to graduate from college, he earned a degree in economics from Harvard College. Jason worked in the financial services and consumer web industries at Merrill Lynch and Wikinvest.com, respectively, before focusing on e-learning program development.
Adam Geller of St. Louis is creating an online video platform that enables collaborative professional development for teachers.
Adam became involved in the education reform movement as a teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools where he taught as part of Teach For America. Adam first identified that video of classroom teaching was a powerful tool for professional development and improvement when he experimented with recording his own lessons for absent students. After leaving the classroom, Adam joined the national strategy team of Teach For America where, among his many projects, he helped design their new student achievement platform which will help change the organization's training and support paradigm for goals, assessments, and tracking in teachers' classrooms.
Adam has a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Adam also is the founder of Teach For Us, a successful social media community for Teach For America teachers.
Jingxin (Jerry) Huang and Feng (Michael) Qin (Childroad, Inc.)
Jingxin (Jerry) Huang of Fremont, Calif., and Feng (Michael) Qin of Hangzhou, China, are creating a digital library of interactive children's books in multiple languages that are accessible through computer and mobile devices.
Jerry has more than fifteen years of international business experience. Most recently, he was a business product manager for Google, and previous roles in product development and management consulting included extensive work in both the United States and Asian (China) markets. Jerry received his MBA from Stanford University.
Michael has extensive experience in general management, business/IT strategy development and execution, IT outsourcing, solution/product management, and B2B e-commerce implementation. Most recently, Michael was a practice director with Unisys Global Public Sector Group, leading the Unisys Public Sector practice in Greater China, and he also has held consulting positions with Accenture and Andersen Business Consulting in China, Europe, and the United States. He holds an MBA from Yale University with concentrations in strategy and finance.
Sandy Khaund of Walnut Creek, Calif., is developing software and educational content to deliver robust distance learning programs delivered via mobile devices such as the iPhone.
Sandy has fifteen years of experience in technology development and operational management, most recently as chief operating officer of Piczo, a social networking site with 35 million registered accounts. Sandy spent six years at Microsoft, where he was director of development of community software for microsoft.com, including cofounding CodePlex, Microsoft's open source repository. He also has held positions at Intel, BCG, and Lockheed Martin, and filed three patents. Sandy holds bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering from Cornell University, a BA from Ithaca College, and an MBA from Wharton.
Igor Khayet of Brookline, Mass., is creating a career services organization that provides resume development, cover letter, and interview preparation consulting to students and young professionals to market themselves effectively for employment and admission into academic programs.
Igor is a member of Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. He holds degrees from the Yale School of Management and Georgetown University. Igor has served as admissions interviewer for Georgetown University and the Yale MBA program, and was a member of the recruiting team at IBM. His professional experience includes consulting work for IBM, a finance position at American Express, and a foreign policy internship for U.S. Senator Sam Brownback.
Matt Pasternack of San Francisco is developing a platform that helps schools and families motivate students to achieve their academic goals.
After graduating from Yale in 2004, Matt taught middle school English in Harlem for three years with Teach For America. He then spent a year helping New York City develop a new, data-driven principal selection process before moving to California to begin Stanford Law School. During his first summer of law school, Matt helped build the prototype for School of One, New York City's innovation in hybrid learning, and he is now on leave from Stanford to found his current venture focused on student motivation.
Michael Periu and Sanjib Kalita
Mike Periu of New Brunswick, N.J., and Sanjib Kalita of New York develop high-quality, culturally-relevant educational programs for financial literacy. The programs are available in English and Spanish and are used across print, television, radio, and online distribution channels.
Through his work, Mike has become a leading voice for empowerment through financial education. He has given over 500 television and radio interviews advocating for greater financial awareness among consumers and frequently is quoted in the media on matters of business, finance, and entrepreneurship. Mike has experience in international business, marketing, corporate finance, personal finance, and management. He began his career with the International Finance Corporation and subsequently started three companies over ten years. Mike has a degree in finance and international business from Georgetown University. He recently was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Council for Economic Education, a leading national organization that provides financial and economic training for K-12 students and teachers in the United States and abroad.
Sanjib Kalita's areas of expertise include marketing management, new product and business development, project management, and strategic planning. He previously was a senior vice president of marketing at Citi Cards, where he spent nine years launching new products, turning around a $4 billion revenue business, and managing a portfolio of 15 million customers representing $30 billion in assets. Sanjib also has held positions at Intel, Bristol Myers-Squibb, and Peppers & Rogers Group. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.
Melissa Pickering of Medford, Mass., is connecting K-12 teachers with new hands-on technologies born out of research, and as a result, is providing teacher workshops, curricular enhancements, and classroom kits to engage students in science, math, and engineering.
Melissa received her BS in mechanical engineering and launched into her career as an "Imagineer" at the Walt Disney Company in Los Angeles. After several design contributions to Disney theme park rides, she returned to her alma mater as assistant director at the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. Leading the charge on transforming the center into a sustained department, she spent much of her two years at the center fundraising, hiring, and commercializing the center's research.
Bhargav Sri Prakash
Bhargav Sri Prakash of Ann Arbor, Mich., will deliver college-level educational content through simulation-based, socially networked games for users to play with each other through an online portal.
Bhargav founded CADcorporation as a graduate student at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to commercialize his research interest in computer simulation, and went on to innovate patented game-based technologies for the higher education market through a proprietary Virtually Immersive framework, Vmerse. He has founded other successful businesses as well. Bhargav draws from his experiences as a competitive tennis player. He had a career-high Indian national ranking of three and played tournaments on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour.
Beth Schmidt of San Francisco provides at-risk high school students with opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities that help them identify and pursue their passions and career goals. Her creation, Wishbone.org, is a web platform linking students with the online donor community to fund their program participation, as well as providing advisors to mentor students.
During Beth's two-year commitment with Teach For America, she taught English in South Central Los Angeles (Watts) to Locke High School sophomores. While teaching at Locke, Beth ran the 2007 Los Angeles marathon, designing a scholarship program for her students and creating the opportunity for seven scholarship winners to select an extracurricular program of their choice. This experience showed her that students are empowered to control their own destinies when given the opportunity to do so. Beth is a Connecticut native who currently calls San Francisco home. She attended The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. and Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt.
Alexandre Scialom of San Francisco is developing an online resource that connects lifelong learners with great online and offline learning experiences. The service allows users to easily search for and find third-party learning resources and offers guidance to support their professional and personal development, based on interests, peers, and location.
Alexandre trained as an engineer in France, researched space robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, and was a consultant at Accenture in Paris for three years. After earning his MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, he joined Box.net, an online file storage service, as the company's fifth employee and first "business person." Alexandre spearheaded Box.net's transition from the consumer to the enterprise market and worked on the company's overall strategy, product roadmap, and marketing activities.
Alzo Slade and Mia Villanueva
Alzo Slade and Mia Villanueva of Brooklyn, New York, are creating engaging animated videos that make it easy for young adults and adults to understand complex political and social issues.
Alzo is a student, teacher, visual artist, and entrepreneur. He holds bachelor's degrees in history and communications and a MA in Philosophy. Alzo has worked as a civic educator and professional commercial visual artist/producer for various projects in fashion, film, TV, print advertising, and documentary journalism, using visual tools to explore and teach social/political issues.
Mia is an artist, writer, filmmaker, educator, and entrepreneur. She has devoted her career to using media as a tool for education. Mia has a bachelor's degree in communication arts with an emphasis in film production. Her past experiences include producing, directing, and writing films; founding a documentary film production company; career coaching and career advising for artists; workforce development; community organizing; and advocacy work.
Christian and Laura Spielvogel
Christian and and Laura Spielvogel of Kalamazoo, Mich., are working to transform the textbook from a passive, solitary, read-only product to a collaborative, interactive, and immersive experience through their "social e-textbooks," which integrate an e-textbook reader with multiplayer games and simulations.
Christian (PhD, Penn State University) is associate professor of Communication at Hope College, where he teaches courses in media studies and rhetoric. His social media projects have been funded from a variety of foundations and associations in the United States, and his research has appeared in international journals in the fields of digital media and learning, communication studies, and American history. His forthcoming book, Interpreting Sacred Ground (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press) examines the public memory of the American Civil War at national Civil War parks and battlefields.
Laura (PhD, Yale University) is associate professor of Cultural Anthropology at Western Michigan University, where she works on issues of gender, digital culture, and globalization in contemporary Japan. She has developed and piloted the role-playing simulation "A Marriage of Cultures" and plans to integrate this simulation into a social e-textbook prototype for introductory anthropology courses. She is the author of Working Out in Japan: Shaping the Female Body in Tokyo Fitness Clubs (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).
Daniel Jhin Yoo
Daniel Jhin Yoo of East Palo Alto, Calif., is developing a real-time analytics platform tailored to online learning.
Daniel is a former software engineer, special education teacher, coordinator, and now an online education entrepreneur. Following several years as a developer at Oracle, he became certified as an educational specialist for children with moderate to severe disabilities, serving as both a teacher and coordinator for special education programs in the Ravenswood City School District (East Palo Alto). He is fluent in computer code and "ed-code." Daniel holds a BS in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California at Berkeley.