Four Minnesota EdTech Companies Will Take the Stage at ASU GSV 2020

by Valerie Lockhart

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Now in its 11th year, ASU GSV (a collaboration between Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley) has become the largest Educational Technology (EdTech) conference in the world and draws an international crowd with distinguished speakers and guests. Case in point, this year’s keynote speakers include Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Koch, Gloria Steinem, and Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy). And, as it turns out, this increasingly popular conference was founded in-part by Minnesota native, Michael Moe.

Even after 11 years, the ASU GSV is still finding ways to shake things up. This year, the conference will host a pitch competition — the GSV Cup Elite 200. The bootstrapped and seed-state companies selected for the showdown (March 30 – April 1) have just five minutes to craft a compelling pitch. Three winners will be chosen by a panel of judges from technology companies worldwide. The prizes at stake? $250,000 and $100,000 in Google Cloud credits.

For this inaugural event, four Minnesota EdTech companies have been chosen to present. We spoke with a representative from each of them to discuss what this prestigious honor means for their company.

BetterYou

BetterYou is a digital coach that helps students make better health and wellness decisions by logging how they actually spend their time and comparing it to their goals.

“We help every student make the most of their time, with meaningful health results.” Sean Higgins, BetterYou CEO, said. “It’s amazing the amount of impact we’ve had in just a year.”

BetterYou helps students track the time they’re spending on devices, and then coaches them into making better decisions to meet their goals.

“The software tells them where their time is going and links it to the goals they’ve set so they can better find time in their schedules.” Higgins said. “In 2007, 32 percent of our free time was spent on a device. Now, it’s up to about 90 percent.”

If BetterYou becomes one of the top three finalists, the company’s plan is to expand hiring and go even deeper into the EdTech market.

Cytilife

Cytilife is the first IoT and AI enabled Smart Campus solution that focuses on transforming and integrating the non-academic aspects of student life.

“It is invaluable for us to be on [ASU GSV’s] radar,” Sabina Saksena, Cytilife CEO, said. “It’s a global conference full of thousands of investors, a great audience, and progressive schools looking for innovation. It could be a good chance to continue to build our customer base.”

According to the CEO, navigating the university systems here in Minnesota can be difficult.

“EdTech has a very long gestational cycle,” Saksena said. “We really need to show more interest to bring more investors and for companies to grow.”

Saksena believes that being a part of this type of global pitch competition can help with some of that exposure.

“If we can shine a light on the EdTech innovation happening here in Minnesota, that could be magical,” she said.

UR Turn

UR Turn is a goal-setting and progress-tracking app for middle and high school students and families. The app charts a pathway for school success and offers course corrections when students get off track.

According to data from last year’s conference, ASU GSV has grown from 350 attendees the first year to almost 5,000 in 2019. Attendees are other EdTech companies and investors (not only the general public) so giving a pitch in front of this group has the potential to be hugely beneficial, even if companies don’t get to the finals.

“Having four of 200 companies in this competition is excellent representation for Minnesota,” Angie Eilers, CEO of UR Turn, said. “Especially when we are not really a main EdTech area. This will definitely help us get more on the map.”

SayKid

SayKid, a voice technology company, has developed a screenless, play-based learning platform that looks like a plush robot.

“The kids become the teacher,” DeLonn Crosby, Co-Founder of SayKid, said. “Our product empowers them. It’s natural and awards them with recognition.”

According to Crosby, ASU GSV is like the Oscars of EdTech.

“It’s all investors, celebrities, politicians, and EdTech companies… the best of the best from across the world.  No one will be expecting a Minnesota company to win, but we really should be a leader in the EdTech space. We’re very focused on families and education here, but we just haven’t been super innovative. I think that’s changing.”

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