If you’ve seen Lea(R)n Founder Karl Rectanus in the last few days, you’ve probably noticed the big grin on his face and fast pace in his step.
Today it all makes sense. The news he’s been sitting on for weeks came out this morning – that his startup would join the elite Kaplan EdTech Accelerator powered by Techstars. By afternoon, he’ll be on a plane to New York City to join 11 other startups from around the nation for funding from Kaplan and Techstars and three months of intense mentorship and business-building. They were chosen from a pool of 500 startups from around the world.
Here’s how he describes the program: “It’s like getting the best startup MBA and the best PhD in learning science in 13 weeks.”
The Kaplan-Techstars program has received much acclaim since it launched in early 2013. It was the first corporate EdTech accelerator of its kind, providing access to the global test prep and training company’s learning science team, executives and market research, its more than 300 high school and more than 20 university partners around the nation along with an optional $150,000 convertible note and office space.
Techstars also provides access to its mentor network and invests $20,000 in each company. Lea(R)n is the second Triangle company to make Techstars. Durham’s Sqord participated in Techstars Chicago last summer.
The program was the only accelerator Rectanus considered for his fledgling company. He already had considerable connections from years of experience in the nonprofit and education technology worlds.
But he recognized the value of the Kaplan and Techstars network in help building a site with two sets of users: educators and technology companies. Lea(R)n’s mission, after all, is to become the third-party resource for rating and testing technology tools used in the classroom. For a full refresher on Lea(R)n’s plans, check out ExitEvent’s profile of the company, published after it won an NC IDEA grant in June.
“The access to some of the smartest folks in education and entrepreneurship is key,” Rectanus says. “We do have strong connections and a strong sense of path but this is the only accelerator we considered because of both the connections to technology companies and the educators around the world.”
So where is Lea(R)n today and where will it be come Demo Day October 22?
Rectanus told me today that Lea(R)n has already launched a private beta for about 500 educators this week – they can rate technology tools, interact with other educators and earn points and badges. It will run for the next two to three months.
Later this year, the site will introduce the first sponsored trials and a full launch of the site will come in early 2015.
In the meantime, he, his co-founder and an engagement manager will be navigating the streets of the Big Apple. But expect him back frequently. He’s got a wife and three young daughters at home, whom he says have made the biggest investment in his company and future.
“They recognize this is what you’ve got to do to make things happen,” he says.