*UPDATE: USC Program That Fosters EdTech-Based Startups Announces $13 Million Raised Collectively by its First Cohort

The USC Rossier EdVentures program has completed its first cohort, providing 16 edtech companies from around the globe with mentorship and financial support.

These student- and alumni-founded companies, as well as companies from five countries, are developing products that enhance educational and financial opportunity.

Most of them are run by minorities and women.

The $13 million came from one of the sponsors, which include Michelson 20MM, Bisk Ventures, Novitas Ventures, Cooley LLP and Microsoft.

USC does not take any equity in the startups it incubates.


USC Rossier EdVentures aims to strengthen companies that take a holistic and diverse approach toward conquering obstacles often faced in education.

By mentoring company leaders and connecting them to potential investors, EdVentures seeks to unlock a variety of strategies and products that benefit learners in early childhood, K-12, postsecondary, and adult education programs.

USC Rossier School of Education Dean Karen Symms Gallagher initiated EdVentures as part of Rossier’s Center for Engineering in Education.

It’s run by a team of managing directors including Anthony Maddox, Dean Kline, Doug Lynch, James Bottom and Julie Slayton, as well as an investment committee including George Straschnov, John Brooks Slaughter and Phil Kim.

The program collaborates with many centers across USC’s campus, such as Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, Incubate USC, the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Marshall School of Business, Center Edge at the Rossier School of Education and the Student Entrepreneurship Education Program at the Viterbi School of Engineering.

The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program helps USC students and alumni, enabling participants to access mentors, grow their network and get resources to accelerate their business.

The companies included in EdVentures’ first cohort are:


  • Akilah, located in Rwanda, is a distinguished higher education institution for women. Akilah helps hundreds of women become ethical leaders in fields ranging from finance, technology, eco-tourism, and more. The organization has expanded to include Davis College, a network of personalized, affordable, and market-relevant higher education in Africa and Asia.


  • Ampligence is a technology that claims to boost efficiency learning and solving math or any math-related subjects, up to 10x more efficient. It upgrades all math-related information-exchange to fully digital like never before. You will no longer need any paper material or calculator for any math purpose.


  • APoll01 is software for building and managing communities, while curating experiences for each community member. APoll01 can manage entire sets of communities, such as a university, a school system, a company, or even a country. Our software establishes portable and interoperable user profiles, enables private and secure mobile voting, incentivizes participation, and delivers roll-up reporting at every community level. Your APoll01 profile will be the last online profile you ever have to make, enabling a lifelong, personalized journey through education and work.


  • Educational math tools, specifically, the graphing calculator, are outdated and painfully expensive. ClassCalc believes that all students should have equitable access to tools that make math easier, not harder. Since the beginning, ClassCalc grasped that unlocking the power of mobile devices was essential to making its belief a reality. So we created ClassCalc – a powerful, test-safe calculator app with a “test-mode” that allows teachers to temporarily lock students on the app screen during tests and classroom sessions. This allows for an environment with no distractions and no cheating– only healthy, unburdened learning.


  • CollegeBacker is democratizing access to higher education with a social investing platform that helps millennial parents conquer their #1 financial fear – paying for college – with help from family and friends. In just a few minutes, a family can open a 529 college savings plan and invite family and friends to help them grow their investment. CollegeBacker has already helped American families save millions – and their kids avoid millions more in debt – by making college savings simple and social.


  • Equally is building engaging games for kids that encourage physical activity, personal development and exploration. 


  • A customizable WordPress Plug-In for creating and providing online courses.


  • GIBLIB curates and creates high-quality medical education videos from subject matter experts at the leading academic medical centers and streams on-demand to medical professionals globally.


  • Immerse developed the first virtual reality language-learning platform, connecting language students and language instructors live in virtual environments. Backed by research from some of the brightest minds in the language education community, the Immerse platform provides a learning experience in which students can move from review of language formulas, to task-oriented, real-life experiences that stimulates language fluency.


  • Intervene partners with school districts to drive student academic improvement. Intervene uses comprehensive assessments and analytics to understand students’ skill deficiencies, then adapts to deliver personalized instruction to close gaps. Intervene uses a whole student approach, including Social Emotional Learning, Culturally Relevant Content, and Data Driven Instruction to grow and motivate students.


  • LoanBuddy develops solutions that help college graduates optimize their student debt. LoanBuddy technology empowers financial advisors and borrowers with tools to calculate federal income-based repayment programs and track the certified months of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Understanding this student debt lifecycle is crucial for grads working at nonprofits or in the government. LoanBuddy has an accelerating “Member Community” of 300+ Advisors, that now track over $150 Million of client student debt within the LoanBuddy platform. Innovative Advisors are incorporating student loan planning at their firms, helping better serve their communities and now any borrower can start using the LoanBuddy self-service portal for free to learn more about their options for their student debt.

Mandarin X

  • MandarinX provides an active online language learning experience for over 270,000 students. MandarinX bridges the gap between cultures by facilitating five in-house designed courses to help students understand different facets of Chinese life.

Octagon Studio

  • Octagon Studio is a tech company specializing in providing high quality Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) products, services, and solutions to elevate the education system in terms of engagement, interaction, and efficiency, as well as the fun factor. Founded in 2015, the Company has grown from a local to an international product. Along the way, we have made various AR Educational Flashcards Series starting from Animal (Animal 4D+), Occupation (Octaland 4D+), Space Exploration (Space 4D+), and Dinosaurs (Dinosaurs 4D+). These apps have been downloaded over one million times. The Space series flashcards were used by the UK Space Agency as a tool to inspire children to become astronauts. Octagon believes Dales’s theory of Cone Experience; we would like to elevate the education to a new level.


  • Reto is a mobile platform customizable for any exam. Reto ENARM, our first niche, has helped more than 100,000 physicians to prepare for the Mexican medical residency entrance examination (ENARM). Reto ENARM features exclusive clinical cases, gamified interactions between users, a web simulator, and insights based on their performance. Reto ENARM was launched at the end of 2015 and it has been adopted by more than 100,000 users that accounts for more than 50% of the market. Reto MIR, our next product release, is for the Spanish Medical Board assessment (MIR). Reto Universidad will help high school students in Latin America prepare for college entrance examinations and Reto Bursatil will be used as a tool to prepare for Mexico’s finance and banking certifications. 


  • Studioso aims to simplify and promote music education through technology. Studioso provides a platform for music teachers and students to easily connect and plan lessons.


  • UCROO helps organizations become more efficient by organizing their internal and external information (documents, notes, messages, links, etc.). Our platform is a new generation of portals that unifies users’ experience and makes data and content social and collaborative. Our first product, Campus, addresses a gap in the higher education market and efficiently replaces old student portals. How ironic is it that universities, of all places, while in charge of sharing and making sense of the world’s information, cannot organize their own information online? Better connection and access to personalized information lead to better outcomes for the students and higher rates of retention for universities.

The application process for the second cohort opened on August 5. Edtech entrepreneurs can apply here.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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