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The 10 startups that just graduated from the education-focused incubator Imagine K12 are taking to the stage at Techcrunch Disrupt this morning in San Francisco. Imagine K12 held its Demo Day for investors last week, but today's the first public showcase of Imagine K12's first cohort.

Imagine K12 launched in the spring, founded by three Silicon Valley veterans: Tim Brady, Alan Louie, and Geoff Ralston. Here's my RWW story from March, and I think what I wrote then still stands: there are still plenty of challenges in building education technology startups; and there are tons of opportunities right now too. The technology is right. There's a new generation of educators, entrepreneurs, and engineers interested in solving education's problems. There's a new generation of "customers" -- students, parents, teachers, administrators who are tech enthusiasts themselves. And investors are interested (hence the unveiling at Disrupt today).

Imagine K12 describes itself as "unabashedly inspired by Y Combinator," the premier Silicon Valley tech startup incubator. The model is similar: an investment and mentorship program -- in the case of Imagine K12, it's been a 3.5 month program with $25,000 in initial funding. The YC model also means an emphasis on customer and product development as well as regular meetings and mentorship. For the startups in Imagine K12, that's meant working closely with teachers, tutors, parents, schools.

I've met 6 of the 10 startups so far (the full list is below). I've written about two (here and here), and stories of two more will be on this blog by the end of the week. Hopefully there are more stories to come after that too. (Cough.)

Is there a revolutionary disruptive education game-changer among the 10 startups on stage today at Techcrunch Disrupt? An (insert ed-tech company of your choice)-killer? Ugh. Those descriptors. I ban them.

From what I've seen so far, these are startups (founders and products) with solid potential. There's little overlap in what the startups are doing, and they're tackling a broad swath of problems -- and not just the easy or obviously profitable ones. Of course it isn't really about one earth-shatteringly awesome world-changing ed-tech tool that fixes everything (although, okay, that would be nice, particularly if the code were on GitHub).

In part, it's about creating a thriving ecosystem where lots of education startups can bloom. Taken all together, yes. That could make a difference. SoI do hope that the experiences and the successes of this first cohort attract more engineering and educator talent -- not just to the incubator program, but to the space in general.

For its part, Imagine K12 is now accepting applications for its second session, to be held Winter 2012.

Imagine K12's first cohort

1. Remind101: safe text-messaging between home and school
2. Goalbook: a platform to help teachers, parents, and students collaboratively track students' progress
3. ClassDojo: a classroom management tool
4. BrainNook: social games to help teach students math and language skills
5. Class Connect: an LMS that helps improve organization and student engagement
6. TutorCloud: online tutoring platform
7. Formative Learning: professional management tool to help monitor "teacher effectiveness"
8. Educreations: tool for creating short lessons and posting them to the Web
9. Eleven Learning: crowdsourced textbooks
10. Eduvant: a data dashboard for school administrators

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Audrey Watters


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