The EdTech Design Process From Idea to Implementation – Wrap Up


O. Henry once penned Austin, TX into one of his works as “the City of the Violet Crown,” describing the inherent beauty and richness of that fair outpost. Indeed, Austin truly is a city with great richness and beauty, and in this resident’s own experience, definitely fits the bill as the “Violet Crown” for many reasons. Austin has lately been known to support a bustling community of entrepreneurs, and the city has even garnered yet another nickname as “Silicon Hills.”  We may yet procure another nickname in regards to our prolific education startup community, but I’ll let others with more imagination weigh in on what it should be. Evidence of this growth is the fact that the meetup has already grown large enough to support our latest endeavor, the EdTech Action Incubator. EdTech Action is the first and only education technology incubator in the state, and it owes it’s success largely to the richness of the community that supports innovation and change in education. The momentum we have seen in this community shows that Austin is well on it’s way to the top of all other edtech cities, and Monday night’s event certainly indicates this as well.


It’s often frowned upon to make generalizations about an entire group of people for obvious reasons, but I doubt anyone would object to describing the entrepreneur community in Austin as “supportive”, “collaborative”, or even at a minimum, “engaged.”  Such was the case when just 2 weeks ago we announced that the Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology wanted to include Austin on it’s nation-wide tour of innovative education communities. Without hesitation, members of the community volunteered to host the event (thanks, Capital Factory!), serve as judges, provide refreshments (thanks, Compass Learning!) and most importantly, attend the event to learn and support folks seeking feedback from educators and fellow entrepreneurs.  We structured the evening as a “SharkTank” for education, with a panel of recognized educators and education business folks, even including a 9th grade student from David Crockett High School.  Our keynote for the evening, Senior Advisor to the Office of Educational Technology, Katrina Stevens, charged up the crowd, highlighting the “EdTech Developer’s Guide,” which is an invaluable resource for early-stage education startups.


Our “SharkTankEdu” segment was incredibly insightful. Our awesome panel of judges weighed in on the advantages and challenges that each competitor brought to bear.

Our educator panel was comprised of the following generous folks:

  • Daniel Wheeler, HS English III teacher and tech influencer at Del Valle High School
  • Sabina Bharwani, Director of Educational Technology for Teach for America
  • Dr. Joan Hughes, Associate Professor of Learning Technologies, University of Texas
  • Craig Shapiro, Principal, David Crockett High School
  • Ryan Waugh, Sophomore, David Crockett High School
  • Joshua Pierce, Socratic Ventures



EduSync explained why current models for classroom calendaring and online resource sharing needs an overhaul. TeacherCal is well on it’s way to helping more educators and students to plan for success.


We learned about the work that TeacherSherpa are doing to change the way teachers find, create and customize resources for the classroom. They are actively seeking feedback from educators to ensure that their product meets the needs of teachers in the classroom, with an eye to changes on the horizon as well.



BookAround shared their vision for bringing book recommendations into the 21st century. Their platform allows students to complete video book reviews and share them within their class, school or other selected communities.


Last, but certainly not least, EdAble showed us how they plan to create the next biggest education video platform. In a marketplace that is fragmented and not easily navigated, EdAble is sure to bring some sense to an otherwise confusing and disjointed arena of educational resources.


We concluded the evening with a few product demos from Compass Learning (project based learning through GoQuest), PenPal Schools, ScribeSense and VChain Solutions. Each of these companies has been around the education space for a while and are well on their way to their respective successes. Still, each sought feedback from our community, eager to gain any insights possible in order to create the best product for the market (customer validation–live!)

In the end, the panel of judges on our SharkTank-style dais reviewed the four competing companies and selected one that they felt stood above the rest.  While each company offered an innovative approach that will no doubt positively shape education, EduSync took top honors and was crowned (the Violet Crown of the the evening?) first place winner.  Be sure to check out EdySync’s TeacherCal platform so you can start planning smarter!



Here is our entire group of SharkTankEdu participants. Thanks to everyone with the guts to pitch and get feedback!

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Thanks so much to our awesome panel of judges and for everyone else who made this evening a success, particularly Katrina Stevens and the Office of EdTech!

That’s all for now. Join us NEXT Wednesday evening as we take a look at the pros and cons of technology in education through a “Great Debate” event. We’ll have food and drinks provided by our friends at Microsoft and lots of audience participation,, to boot. Hal Speed will share what he has been working on with TACSE (Texas Alliance for Computer Science Education.)  You won’t want to miss out!


Sean Duffy
Founder/Organizer, EdTech Austin