Cambridge English Language Assessment's Director of Digital and New Product Development, Geoff Stead, blogs on an inspiring edtech mentoring weekend, hosted in partnership with the Cambridge Judge Business School. Pictured above, a row of teams working with their mentors at DisruptEd.
It turns out that 12 teams, 50 entrepreneurs, 13 mentors and one huge dose of edu-enthusiasm is the perfect formula for edtech inspiration.
Last weekend Cambridge English partnered with the Cambridge Judge Business School to run DisruptEd, an intensive mentoring weekend to encourage and support new edtech start-ups.
Fifty candidates pitched business ideas to one another, eventually forming small teams around 12 different ideas which they spent the weekend refining. Local experts kindly volunteered their time as mentors, offering free advice and business guidance.
It was great to see the ideas morph and evolve as different mentors challenged and nudged the fledgling business models and product visions. Some were clearly business opportunities in themselves, while others were more focussed on impact and seeking a model that would sustain them regardless of profit.
I was lucky to be a judge, which gave me the freedom to roam around talking to attendees all weekend as well as sitting on the final review panel. On Sunday night the exhausted teams pitched their ideas to four of us judges, Peter Cowley, David Carter, Tara Hein-Phillips and myself (Geoff Stead).
(Above) Attendees voting on each others' ideas and forming teams.
The pitches were all fantastic, and unusually all of the top three have been offered priority access to Accelerate Cambridge, the heavily oversubscribed 10-week mentoring programme offered by the Judge.
The winners were:
• Popup Medical (helping medical students by pre-filtering Google results)
• Starling (a diagnostic testing / adaptive / English learning platform)
• Tribalingual (saving dying languages by teaching them)
A special award went to S2S (Speak to Someone), a mental health support platform which won a free place on a Social Business mentoring scheme.
Crowd favourite awards went to:
• Pivot, a platform for connecting mentors to business ideas
• Votecards, a classroom voting app
It was a great weekend, filled with the warm glow of mutual support.
Attendees loved the support they got from the mentors. Mentors loved the enthusiasm of the different teams. The teams themselves were supporting one another, despite being in competition. Our colleagues at the Judge commented that education people seem far more harmonious than their usual entrepreneurs – clearly, we are all in the right business!
Cambridge English is deeply committed to innovation and improvement in language learning and teaching, and we see digital as a core part of this. My role as a Director is to build our own capacity for digital innovation, as well as encouraging the wider edtech ecosystem. We know that good digital tools can improve teaching and learning across the planet and we hope that by supporting initiatives like DisruptEd we can increase the number of quality, impactful learning tools.
If you’d like to know a little more about why we ran DisruptEd, see this blog.
Cambridge English, Director of Digital and New Product Development