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Smart Cities: New York City is an EdTech Hotspot

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New York City schools have been among the most innovative in the country as discussed last week. NYC is home to the most education industry leaders and the second most prolific tech startup and EdTech hotspot on the planet (after the Bay Area).

Education Industry. The following are the larger and more notable education companies in NYC:


EdTech Startups. Below are a few notable NYC edtech startups:

  • Socratic Labs is an edtech accelerator embracing lean startup practices and supporting a collaborative coworking community.
  • Late Nite Labs provides science lab simulations for online blended learning. This is dramatically increasing access for students in schools without formal science labs both K-12 and Higher Ed.
  • Chalkable aims to be the best web app store for education. If they pull it off and add rating features, this could be pretty innovative.
  • Knowledge Delivery Systems provides teacher professional development.
  • Unbound Concepts is building a proprietary natural language processing algorithm that can understand authored content in a deep ontological fashion. Their first app, BookLeveler is an iOS-based App that provides a format for educators to share real-time, first-hand input on books and content used in the learning environment.
  • Learn Bop provides a one-on-one tutoring experience that is completely personalized. It guides students step-by-step through solutions so that they can immediately learn from their mistakes. Teachers can author content, choose from a wide variety of user-generated content, and get immediate feedback and data about their students performance.
  • Kinvolved is a simple automated mobile platform, which allows teachers to inform parents and guardians of student absenteeism in real time. Through immediate communication of attendance information, Kinvolved aims to increase student attendance and family engagement in education, especially in disadvantaged or underserved communities.
  • Skillshare allows anyone to teach anything anytime for free.
  • eduClipper is a well-executed Pinterest clone for education.
  • Avenues is Chris Whittle's global private school network. Here is NY Magazine feature.
  • General Assembly is a cool coworking space with collaborative learning in tech, business, and design.
  • ShowMe offers an elegant iPad authoring tool that enables the development and publishing of user-generated lessons.
  • HireArt helps companies gain a deeper understanding of applicant skills with work samples and video interviews.
  • Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print.


Investors & Bankers. Hundreds of investors and bankers make New York hum; here's a few active in EdTech:

  • Expansion Venture Capital is an active seed stage edtech investor.
  • Rethink Education is a new edu venture capital firm formed by a couple early Wireless Generation investors.
  • Spark Capital has invested in a couple education deals including Academia.edu, Altius Education, DIY, and Skillshare.
  • City Light is an impact investor and backer of 2U.


Foundations are plentiful in New York. Carnegie has been a partner with Gates on school turnaround, new school development and the Shared Learning Collaborative. Robertson, Tiger, and Robin Hood have been a big supporters of charter schools and youth and family services. The Ford Foundation supports innovative secondary school developers in NYC including Steve Barr's Future is Now and Generation Schools.

Higher Ed. The EdLab at Columbia Teachers College is an R&D center for an "education sector that is attuned to the emerging post-industrial, information-based world." Projects that will have a broad impact include theirVialogue series ,Launch Pad, and New Learning Times.

City University, NYC College of Tech, and IBM supported the design of an innovative 9-14 STEM school first deployed at a school called P-TECH and now is serving as the basis for additional schools throughout the city, state, and nation.

NYU's Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation holds three annual venture competitions .

Bank Street College has a well regarded teacher preparation program.

Council for Aid to Education administers an innovative value-added college assessment and announced last week that it will be reviewing Coursera courses for credit.

Smart City. New York is the financial capital of the world and the largest school district in the country; until recently education and finance had little to do with each other. The high profile launch of Edison almost 20 years ago proved to be a false start but did lead to a wave of innovative school developers ( discussed last week). The edtech boom that fired up in 2010 doesn't rely on top down decision making; it's powered by viral adoption by teachers and students.

Despite state barriers to online learning, young people in NYC are taking advantage of anywhere, anytime learning. The NYC Department of Education (DOE) has been slow to improve student access to technology, but the iZone project may represent the largest blended learning initiative in the country. The confluence of money, talent, culture, and growing demand for learning will ensure that NYC will remain a edtech hotspot.

Steven Hodas, an entrepreneur working at the DOE said New York has "a faith in diverse human capital and the creation of levers, fulcrums, and conduits to harness its relentless drive to bring new things into the world--are the essence of creative cities in any domain."

Thanks to Marshall Buxton at Socratic Labs, Jason Weeby at EdPioneers, for their contributions to this post. General Assembly, ShowMe, HireArt and Storybirds are Learn Capital companies where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.

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