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MMM student Eric Lee '14 pitches Tuplee, a web-based file aggregator, at the Kellogg Education Technology Incubator's inaugural pitch competition. Lee and his team won $20,000 in funding.

Kellogg Education Technology Incubator

Incubating education

Kellogg Education Technology Incubator funds tech startups by students, for students

By Glenn Jeffers

11/21/2013 - An app that tracked campus shuttles. Online tutors with a knack for conversation. A clearinghouse that organized scholarship funding and data. These were just some of the ideas from startups vying for $60,000 in funding at the Kellogg Education Technology Incubator’s inaugural pitch competition Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Over the course of two hours inside the Allen Center, eight student teams offered their best proposals for web-based products, all designed to deal with various educational issues either at Kellogg or abroad.

After a round of voting from the audience, four teams were selected to join Kellogg’s latest incubator. In addition to the prize money, teams will receive sponsorship from the Dean’s office and mentoring through the Kellogg Innovation Network.

The teams will work with Kellogg Information Systems to deliver a product that students will pilot over the next two quarters. Products are scheduled to launch by June 2014.

Meet the winners

Winning pitches ran the gamut in terms of scope, with some focusing on smaller, Kellogg-specific problems. Konnect pitched a Siri-esque app that would link prospective students with current ones based on interests and goals.

“This is the perfect point to start a conversation with prospective students,” said Konnect project manager Alex Johnson ’15, whose team received $10,000 in funding.

Others like Tuplee, which received $20,000, went macro. A file aggregator, Tuplee would sync files from multiple platforms, including Blackboard, Dropbox and Google Drive, to a web- or mobile-accessible site. The aggregator already is in beta testing.

“I was surprised by how far along some of the teams were,” said Westin Hatch ’14, president of KETI and a student in the MMM program. “There were some who really wanted to launch a startup through KETI.”

Linguify, a webcam chat service where international students can practice conversational English with native-speaking tutors, won $10,000. Rounding out the group was KetchUp, which would allow students to record-then-upload lectures to a cloud-based server that absentee classmates could access for a limited time. KetchUp received $12,500 in funding.

Project manager Ben Artis ’14 said his group was already working on KetchUp when they heard about the competition. A part-time student who works as a sales and marketing manager for Whirlpool, Artis wanted to find a way to record the lectures he missed due to work.

His classmate’s tape recorder wasn’t cutting it anymore.

“The moment I saw the email, I knew [KetchUp] was perfect,” Artis said. “It’s using technology to fix some part of our education and it solves the funding issue, too.”

The pitch competition ended a four-week process where teams of three-to-four students brainstormed ideas, settled on a product, worked to deliver a project plan and pitched to a panel of judges, including former Interim Dean Sunil Chopra, Kim Vender Moffat ’06 of Sterling Partners and Steve Farsht ’98, director of TechStars Chicago and lecturer.

“It’s really amazing what these teams were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time,” said Linda Darragh, executive director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, which funded the competition. “It will be interesting to see what happens in the next seven months.”