Well, it's that time of year again. On April 15th, GSV Advisors' annual Education Innovation Conference will kick off. Reactions to the conference last year were a bit of a Rorschach Test, varying greatly depending on the person's view of the role of venture capital in education in general (as well as whether they were attending the conference physically, watching remotely, or just reading the tweet stream). As I wrote about after last year's conference in "What Are Ed Tech Entrepreneurs Good For?", I am in the "cautious but positive" camp about the importance that venture funding could play in education.
Love it or hate it, this year's conference is going to be bigger than ever. There are going to be 180 companies presenting, which is double the number from the previous year, and the conference organizers predict a 50% increase in attendance when all last-minute and walk-in registrations have been tallied. I will be attending again this year and expect to be able to give more thorough coverage than I was last year, thanks in part to the new freedom that comes from working at MindWires.
Anyway, one of the more interesting features of the conference this year is the Return on Education (ROE) awards. It's basically a contest to recognize up-and-coming ed tech projects. There is no monetary award, but given that the conference is being heavily attended by education, business, and general news press, the winners can expect a lot of good PR and, likely, a lot of attention from people with money. There is a non-profit category for the awards, so it's not just limited to start-ups. Projects have to be nominated by attendees, and there are 100 such nominations so far.
Nominees are judged on the following criteria:
- Significantly increase access to education;
- Greatly reduce the cost for learners and/or learning institutions;
- Dramatically improve learning outcomes;
- Provide substantial leverage to learning leaders (teachers, professors); and/or
- Make a sustainable and scaled impact.
The nomination form has fields asking for explanations on how the nominee fits each of these criteria.
Nominations are open until Friday. I'll be curious to see what kinds of projects get nominated as well as what kinds of projects win.