SIIA Announces Innovation Incubator Award Winners

The Education Division of SIIA showcased some of the leading growth companies in the education technology market, and recognized the best among them as part of the Innovation Incubator program at the 13th annual Education Business Forum, held Dec. 10-11 at the McGraw Hill Conference Center in New York.

Award Winners:


The dynamism of this year’s Innovation Incubator winners demonstrates the vibrancy of the ed tech industry. Without a doubt, all of the Innovation Incubator participants will continue to have a lasting impact on the industry.

More than 75 applicants were assessed for the Innovation Incubator program on a broad range of criteria, including the education focus, end-user impact, market need for the innovation, representation of K-12/postsecondary market levels, and the level of originality and innovation. Ten participants and one alternate were selected for the program, and ten were elected as finalists in the program.

Other finalists include:

SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program identifies and supports entrepreneurs in their development and distribution of innovative learning technologies. The program began in 2006 and has provided incubation for dozens of successful products and companies in their efforts to improve education through the use of software, digital content, and related technologies.

The Education Business Forum is the industry conference for the K‐12 and postsecondary education technology marketplace. For more information regarding the event, visit 

Karen BillingsKaren Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation

Technology-Enhanced Instruction and Competition – Two Emerging Trends – Can Help Stem Decline in Foreign Language Instruction

Public school expenditures on world language instruction are on the decline. However, America’s need for a national workforce with foreign language skills is on the increase. “It’s not that kids have to learn a language because the U.S. is losing supremacy,” said Jane Swift, CEO of Middlebury Interactive (a world language instruction provider). “On the contrary, learning a language will help the U.S. sustain its leadership position.”

On the occasion of Swift’s upcoming session, “Emerging Development Trends,” at the SIIA Education Business Forum, we discussed the challenges facing world language instruction and how those challenges can be overcome by trends in the education landscape.

I asked her how well the US is preparing students with the language skills and cultural understanding needed to compete in the global marketplace. “Our intentions are good,” said Swift, “but there is not the needed funding to execute on them. Compare public school expenditures between 1997 and 2008.  In 1997, thirty-one percent of elementary schools were offering language courses. Now, only 25 percent do; at middle schools that number has dropped from 75 percent to 58 percent.”

Swift attributes this decline to schools’ need to address Common Core standards as well as widespread budget constraints.

Can technology-enhanced instruction help?  According to Swift, “digital content and solutions help schools to be more flexible. Whereas before they struggled to find and afford qualified teachers in languages—both who have the ability to speak fluently and be certified to teach that language, now we’re seeing growth in blended learning—where schools can use their scarce budgets better.”  For instance, students can work on a computer several days a week learning the target language, then study with a travelling instructor once a week.  “This way,” Swift explains, “school districts can expend the impact of one high-quality teacher across schools and grades.  We also see schools that use our virtual teachers, especially in uncommon languages.”

But before technology solutions can live up to this ideal, schools need to address their widespread lack of technology readiness.  “Technology readiness has been a naïve approach in some schools—buy a bunch of iPads and we’re ready.  The hardware devices and tech support at schools still have a long way to go,” noted Swift.  While the focus on Common Core may siphon attention and budget away from foreign language instruction, it is also paving the way for greater technology readiness.  As Swift observed, “The trend in schools to require electronic assessment for Common Core is going to make their ecosystem better prepared for embracing more technology solutions.”

Technology solutions also help to create the “immersion experience” that transforms language learning from rote vocabulary acquisition to true understanding of another culture. “Advances in audio and video have allowed language learning to become really engaging and to use authentic materials,” said Swift. Social media also plays a key role. “Research-proven pedagogy shows that you can’t speak language unless you know the culture. Connecting to other speakers and cultures through social media has also led to motivation in both students and teachers. “

Asked what else needs to happen to make globalization at the K-12 level a reality, Swift replied: “There needs to be a lot more public awareness of the opportunities students have when they do gain these cultural and language skills—in terms of wage differential.  Just like in STEM where folks have done a great job educating the public around the gains kids will get from STEM—such as career preparedness and for driving economic health here in the U.S.”  According to Swift, language education groups are starting to band together to talk about the advantages of language acquisition.

To drive the next revolution in education, not just in foreign language instruction, Swift discussed the need to institutionalize more cooperation between K-12 and Higher Ed, and for Higher Ed institutions to get to know the K-12 experience and provide schools with critical services. Some colleges already do this: Middlebury College formed a joint venture with K-12, Stanford ran a charter school in Palo Alto, and Johns Hopkins’ School of Education conducted research on K-12 providers and provided feedback on the efficacy of their solutions. Colleges can also partner with organizations that service K-12 schools.

What are other ways we can drive positive change for education?  I look forward to continuing the discussion at SIIA’s Education Business Forum.


Joana Jebsen is President of O’Donnell Learn, a strategic advisory firm with extensive market and product development capabilities. O’Donnell Learn has helped education companies design, build, and launch successful products for the past 23 years. Prior to O’Donnell, Joana held executive roles at HarperCollins Publishers and Questia and consulting roles at Thomson Learning Labs, now Cengage Learning, and Factiva. She sits on the Post-Secondary Board of the SIIA, and spent her formative years in German-speaking countries, where she developed a passion for languages and other cultures.

The 2012-2013 Ed Tech Market Surveys

The Software and Information Industry Association is pleased to announce the launch of the 2012-2013 Market surveys for both Higher Ed and PK-12!  These surveys are open to all companies who sell directly into school markets, and enable SIIA to collect information on the size and shape of the education technology market. All information collected is extremely confidential and used only in aggregate form.

What do we do with all of this data? We create industry reports which are discounted for members and FREE for all who participate in the survey!

SIIA has an archive of past reports in our eStore available for download.  All prior PK12 reports are available for download, while the executive summaries are free for all.  Members can download our first-ever Higher Ed Report released this fall for FREE, while non-members can purchase it for only $199.

In addition, next week at our Education Business Forum we will be presenting the results of our 2011-2012 school year PK-12 report.  Sign up for the forum to talk to the authors and learn more about the results from the latest data.

Lindsay HarmanLindsay Harman is Market and Policy Analyst for the SIIA Education Division.

Education Technology Pioneers Announced as Finalists for SIIA Innovation Incubator Program

The SIIA Education Division today announced finalists, and an alternate, for its Innovation Incubator Program. The program will be held during the annual Education Business Forum, Dec. 10-11, at the McGraw Hill Conference Center in New York. The finalists will feature their products during the event, and awards will be presented to the Most Innovative and Most Likely to Succeed based on votes of conference attendees. The Educator’s Choice Award will also be presented based on votes from educators and administrators from around the United States. SIIA will also award prizes from program partners.

The SIIA Innovation Incubator Program identifies and supports entrepreneurs in their development and distribution of innovative learning technologies. The program began in 2006 and has provided support for dozens of successful products and companies in their efforts to improve education through the use of software, digital content, and related technologies. The program is open to applicants from academic and non-profit institutions, pre-revenue and early-stage companies, as well as established companies with newly developed technologies.

“This year’s Innovation Incubator participants are promising products with tremendous energy, creativity, and entrepreneurship,” said Karen Billings, vice president for the SIIA Education Division. “Innovative products like these play a pivotal role in keeping our students engaged and enhancing their educational experience.”

Innovation Incubator Program finalists were selected from the applicant pool based on key selection criteria, including:

  • Education focus and end user impact / Market need for the innovation,
  • Representation of K-12/Postsecondary market levels,
  • Level of originality and innovation

All Innovation Incubator finalists will present during the Business Profiles Presentations on Dec. 10, which is immediately followed by the Innovation Showcase & Networking Reception where they will be available for one-on-one product demonstrations and in-depth discussions.

Innovation Incubator Program participants are: [Read more...]

SIIA Seeks Education Technology Innovators

Innovation Incubator logoSIIA’s Education Division is now accepting applicants for its Innovation Incubator program. Selected developers of promising technologies in the K-12 and postsecondary markets will be invited to participate in the program during this year’s SIIA Education Business Forum, December 10-11, at McGraw-Hill Conference Center in New York. The deadline to apply is                                                 October 4.

The SIIA Innovation Incubator program identifies and supports entrepreneurs in the development and launch of innovative learning technologies. The program began in 2006, and has helped dozens of companies enrich education through the use of software, digital content, and related technologies. The Innovation Incubator program employs a peer-review process to identify the most promising digital education products. Successful industry leaders and peers also provide one-on-one mentorship to support the growth and success of identified innovators.

All education technology companies are encouraged to apply – from start-ups to established innovators. A panel of SIIA member judges, consisting of prominent education technology industry professionals, will review and score each innovation, and collective scores will determine finalists and an alternate. Finalists will be asked to give webinar presentations to educators and administrators nationwide for the Educators’ Choice Award. Finalists will also present their products live for Education Business Forum attendees. One winner will be honored with the Educators’ Choice Award based on educator scores. An additional winner and one runner-up will be chosen for the “Most Innovative” and “Most Likely to Succeed” categories based on the scores submitted by Forum attendees.

For more information about the Innovation Incubator program, or to apply, go to or contact me at

Liderby Portorreal is Program Manager for the SIIA Education Division. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation and LinkedIn.

SIIA to Hold Education Business Forum Dec 10-11 in New York

SIIA today announced that it will hold the Education Business Forum (EBF), the leading business and finance conference for the K-12 and postsecondary education technology markets, Dec. 10-11 at McGraw-Hill Conference Center in New York.

The 12th annual conference will bring together senior management teams of education software companies, platform technology firms, financial analysts, solution providers and distributors, publishers, financial analysts, private equity firms, and venture capitalists. Participants will discuss new business models and how to leverage shifts in the digital learning space, in addition to sharing knowledge about new markets, growth in financial investment, and new paths to revenue.

Topics will include:

  • Capitalizing Your Business for the Long Term
  • Making that Build or Buy Decision to Grow Your Product line
  • Leveraging a Market Map
  • Getting to that $10M Mark in Revenue
  • Going Global Where Opportunities Are Greatest
  • Emerging Development Trends
  • Case Studies of the Best and Brightest Companies Destined for Success
  • Successful Entrepreneurial Strategies Within Growing Markets
  • Partnering Strategies for Growth

The Education Business Forum will also feature:

  • Innovation Incubator. SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program identifies and supports entrepreneurs in the development and distribution of innovative learning technologies. The program began in 2006, and has provided mentorship for dozens of successful products and companies in their efforts to improve education through the use of software, digital content, and related technologies.
  • One-to-One Business Connections. One-to-One Business Connections meetings will be scheduled during designated times throughout the conference by SIIA staff, with the support of its partner Educational Systemics. SIIA will select companies to meet with participants based on the preferences they described in their respective surveys. These fast-paced exchanges will help pave the way for increased capital, revenue, and strategic alliances between participants.

Online registration is available at the Education Business Forum Media Center.

Karen BillingsKaren Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation

Education Business Forum: Save the Date, December 10-12, 2013!

The Education Business Forum is SIIA’s key event for executives interested in raising capital, revenue, and profitability for their companies in the digital learning space.  Attendance at this Forum has been growing each year and in recent years, attracted over 250 key execs from ed tech companies, private equity and venture capital firms, and investment banks.

It will be at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center again: it has the space we needed after selling out in years past!  It’s a very focused meeting, designed to produce results for the companies focused on growing capital, revenue, and/or profitability.

While speakers and sponsors are closely involved in the conference planning and implementation, everyone who attends will gain value from the presentations by the Innovation Incubator Finalists, plenary and keynote speakers, and break-out panelists.  And, as in years past, are many opportunities to connect with key people there – from the always popular Speed Networking and One-to-One Business Connections to the informal networking breaks during the Forum.  A schedule of events is available online and will be updated as we receive speaker applications.

What’s different this year?  The timing of the Forum.  After 10 years, we moved it to a week later than usual so that attendees don’t have to travel that Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving.  And we’re pleased to say that several other education events held during this ‘education week’ in New York have also moved so you can attend even more events that week, hosted not only by SIIA, but our colleagues in other organizations.

If you are new to the ed tech space, this will be like a 1 ½ day mini MBA.  If you are a start-up, you will meet everyone you need to know in that time.  And if you are an investor looking to build your portfolio, you will find the right companies here to invest in.  And if you are a successful company looking to expand your product line, enter a new market, or find capital for your growth, the Education Business Forum is the place to be.

Register early to take advantage of the best rates.  Your company, large or small, will appreciate the money you save.  Early-Bird registration is available until November 4, but register now. And to strengthen your brand image in front of a targeted audience, take advantage of our moderately-priced sponsorship opportunities.  To learn more, please check out the sponsorship packages.

Karen BillingsKaren Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation