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This article was published 11/8/2016 (1669 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Not unlike every other legacy institution in society, education is being disrupted by digital technology.
If the fact Winnipeg-based Quipped Interactive Learning Tools is one of only 12 companies accepted to participate in a private conference for the world’s top education-technology founders in New York next week is any indication, it is at the vanguard of that process.
The weeklong VentureOut Edtech Expedition conference connects companies such as Quipped with leaders of the education and venture communities in New York, including founders and executives from top education companies, venture capitalists and other thought leaders in the education ecosystem in New York City.
Suzanne Braun, co-founder and CEO of Quipped, knows it is a great opportunity to get her company out in front of some industry key players.
'... instead of being one of a thousand, you're one of 12, and you get to shake the hands of the speakers'‐ VentureOut founder Brian Frumberg
"It’s very exciting," she said.
The small Winnipeg startup has developed a sophisticated software application called Quio Learning Map, a student-assessment tool that goes beyond what students — and their parents — get from a letter grade.
It adheres to the school division’s curriculum and its learning goals, but the assessment is communicated in an e-portfolio that is interactive and individualized.
Braun and her team have spent a couple of years developing it and already have thousands of teachers and students using it on a trial basis. Not surprisingly for something like this that requires school divisions to do a major rethink, the sales cycle can be lengthy.
"But we have great take-up," Braun said. "British Columbia just released its new curriculum, including the way they do student assessments, and Quio fits like a glove. The interest has increased significantly with the new curriculum. Alberta in the midst of rewriting theirs, and it’s almost a mirror to what B.C. is doing."
Last year was the first year of trials after a couple of years of development. She is going to B.C. in three weeks to set up more users and hopes that after another year of trials the company will start booking sales at the start of the 2017 school year.
"We are seeing a lot more momentum," she said.
"The goal is to increase the user base and convert them to sales for years three and four."
The invitation to attend the VentureOut conference is some validation for the hard work Braun and her team have put in. Brian Frumberg, the founder of VentureOut, said they researched 20 countries with education-technology ecosystems and invited a number of pre-qualified companies to apply. He said there were 113 applications, and 12 were selected.
"It costs the same as it would to attend TechCrunch Disrupt, but instead of being one of a thousand, you’re one of 12, and you get to shake the hands of the speakers," Frumberg said.
Braun will get private meetings with venture capital investors, mentors and industry officials.
Many other companies that have advanced to the stage Quipped is at would likely have gone through a couple of rounds of investment, but Quipped has been almost entirely self-financed.
That’s because its five shareholders are fully equipped with many of the resources it needs.
Braun is a co-founder of an 18-year-old integrated digital-marketing agency called Relish, which has done the coding and all the digital design for the Quio program.
And two of the Quipped partners are the owners of Portage and Main Press, an educational publisher of mostly Canadian resources for the K-12 market.
Catherine Gerbasi, the publisher and co-owner of Portage and Main, believes the timing is perfect for Quipped and for the partnership between Portage and Main Press and Relish.
"With the advent of more technology in the schools, digitized learning, long-distance learning and new curricula that focus on big ideas and 21st-century competencies like critical thinking and problem-solving... there are a number of different areas of education changing like every other industry," Gerbasi said.
"It seemed like a perfect moment for our educational publishing company and Relish with its web and software capabilities to come together to create something unique."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.