The Download: Education tech startups find fertile ground in Washington

The Washington region has emerged as a hotbed for education technology startups, bolstered in part by its proximity to the federal government and several anchor companies who pioneered the sector.

As area techies gathered last week for August’s D.C. Tech Meetup, the investors and entrepreneurs in attendance discussed technology as a way to improve school performance despite budget constraints.

“The cost of education is too expensive, the outcomes are not good enough and people are demanding more,” said Steve Goldenberg, founder of Interfolio, a District-based company that manages and distributes letters of recommendation. “It’s a fabulous time to start disruptive innovation entities.”

And that’s just what many local outfits appear to be doing. Seven firms put their technology on display:

Edualizer helps students, teachers and parents track the reams of data that come out of the classroom, including test scores or completed assignments, then view them in easy-to-digest charts and dashboards.

— Facebook counts 750 million users as of July, including many tech-savvy students. TalkChalk aims to use the network as a platform where teachers can host discussions with classes and assign homework.

— The founders at CampusSplash build Web sites and Facebook apps to help college-bound students navigate the admissions process. They plan to launch a question-and-answer forum this week for applicants to ask the things not covered in a brochure.

EverFi continues to grow its business providing online tutorials for high school and college students on topics such as financial literacy, substance abuse and health. The company now plans to expand into elementary schools.

— Foreign language company Rosetta Stone is thinking outside its standard bright yellow box. Recent versions of its software now include more interactive features such as video chat and games.

Always Prepped provides online math practice for elementary school students and allows parents and teachers to track their progress. Unmotivated students can be prodded along with the promise of prizes for earning points.

— Can you bake killer cupcakes? Or consult on corporate branding? Whatever the talent, Skillshare connects you with others looking to learn it. The New York startup, which is coming to the District, uses the Web to link people who then arrange in-the-flesh meetings to trade tips.

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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