EdTech Showcase is all about connections

TU Incubator and member companies have had a $150 million+ economic impact on Greater Baltimore and Maryland

By Arthur Smith on October 26, 2017

Towson University's Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics Dean David Vanko speaks with Scrible Co-Founder and CEO Victor Karkar during the TU Incubator's EdTech Innovation Showcase.
Towson University's Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics Dean David Vanko speaks with Scrible Co-Founder and CEO Victor Karkar during the TU Incubator's EdTech Innovation Showcase.

Two-minute lightning pitches, and product demonstrations from 19 of the region’s top education entrepreneurs, were among the featured highlights of last Thursday’s EdTech Innovation Showcase.

More than 150 people packed Towson University’s Minnegan Room for the annual networking event, which was hosted by the highly successful TU Incubator.

For presenters, the event was about connecting with potential partners and funders.

For attendees, the event was about connecting with new products.

For the TU Incubator, the event was about connecting products to people.

Connecting Products to People

In his opening remarks, TU’s Director of Venture Creation Frank Bonsal III noted that entrepreneurship is driven by people.

“When you start a company, that’s all there is—people," Bonsal said. "The fact that you all showed up this evening indicates that you believe in what we’re doing here."

In fact, there was a concerted effort on TU Incubator’s part to get the “right” people in the room.

“Tonight’s goal was to get our people [TU Incubator member companies] in front of key decision-makers and influencers to develop partnerships, whether with a new customer, an investor or a strategic partner,” said Bonsal

Invited guests included administrators and educators from public and private K-12 and higher education sectors, as well as larger education companies  and investors from greater Baltimore.

At the 2016 iteration of the showcase, several representatives from Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K-12, were in the room. Their interaction with Speak Agent, a company based out of Montgomery County that focuses on scholastic achievement for English language learning, led to a pilot program with the edtech industry leader.

The pilot is launching this fall.

An EdTech Focus

Out of the 19 startups who participated last Thursday, 18 are member companies of TU Incubator. All focus on edtech — or education technology — and all desire to help innovate in 21st century teaching, learning and administration.

As Maryland’s top producer of teachers, TU is constantly working to enhance educational experiences and integrating technological advancements into education.

Beginning in 2014, TU Incubator began leveraging this reputation and made a concerted effort to attract edtech companies to campus. In April 2017, TU Incubator hit a major milestone when a majority (75 percent) of their member companies were edtech-focused, with 25 edtech companies.

Today, the TU Incubator supports the largest cluster of edtech companies in Maryland, and the mid-Atlantic region.

Learn more about TU Incubator’s growth and commitment to founder diversity.

Laurie Mullen, dean of TU’s College of Education, encouraged the presenting edtech innovators to work with her faculty to help improve teaching and learning. She pointed out that InferCabulary, one of the presenting TU Incubator member companies, was already working with the college on a pilot program for the company’s visual vocabulary and reasoning program.

“I do have a soft spot for those of you looking to move forward teaching and learning,” said Mullen.

Growth and Impact

Underlying Thursday’s event was TU Incubator’s 10-year anniversary.

Since launching as Towson Global Business Incubator in April 2007 with five companies, TU Incubator has grown to support 30-plus concurrent member companies, over 80 companies since inception. During its 10-year history, TU Incubator has worked with Baltimore County to support venture creation and economic development, and has had a major impact on the region’s economy.

  • TU Incubator and its member companies have had over a $150 million economic impact on Greater Baltimore and Maryland
  • Member companies have raised over $30 million in outside capital
  • Member companies have created over 1,000 jobs

In her remarks at Thursday’s event, Towson University President Kim Schatzel echoed these successes. She noted that small businesses, including TU Incubator member companies, are the backbone of the U.S. economy and that small firms employ over half of the private-sector workforce.

Learn more about TU Incubator’s partnership with Baltimore County

Matt Doherty, founder & principal of the Trailhead Group, called the event “one of the more efficient events I have seen in some time.” He also took note that the president and multiple deans and vice presidents attended the event, saying “Their presence demonstrated the institution's buy-in.”

Although the EdTech Innovation Showcase is about making connections, it is ultimately about continuing the success TU Incubator and its member companies well into the next decade.