After scoring ‘huge validation,’ KC ed tech startup prepares for nationwide product launch
A Kansas City-based ed tech startup and former LaunchKC grant winner is sailing past the pilot phase and will launch its educational math video game nationwide Tuesday.
One of the key components making the launch possible was Boddle Learning Inc.'s acceptance into the 2019 AT&T Aspire Accelerator. It's one of only eight startups selected nationwide for the six-month program, which kicked off in June and awarded each startup $100,000. The program also connects the startups to needed resources and experts, and makes industry introductions.
"It was huge validation for us that we are on the right track with what we were trying to build," Boddle co-founder Clarence Tan told the Kansas City Business Journal. "They're not just a telecommunications company anymore. … They have a huge network in education."
The program is tailored to the needs and goals of each startup and is teaching Boddle how to successfully take its product to market, he said. Through the accelerator, Boddle has met a variety of successful education-focused companies that have shared past challenges, how they landed their products in schools and continued to thrive.
"Almost every single introduction that we were looking for has been fruitful in one way or another," he said.
Thanks to the funding boost from AT&T, Boddle was able to expand its pilot projects with schools and use feedback from teachers and students to enhance its software. In addition to Kansas City-area schools, Boddle piloted its video game in classrooms and after-school programs in Baltimore and New Jersey. One takeaway that it has since implemented was the need for an algorithm that could help teachers easily identify each student's fundamental learning gaps.
The initial game launch will feature math content and assessments for first through third grades, and content for grades four, five and six will be added later this fall.
"The value proposition for us is to not just make it fun, but to motivate kids to keep trying using game play," Tan said.
The self-paced video game includes a variety of mini-games such as basketball and soccer and allows students to customize the look of the game's environment and their Boddle character. When students answer questions correctly in the game, they earn points and in-game currency that can be used to further personalize the game, such as picking out furniture for their house or buying different outfits for their character. Most of the outfits were inspired by students in the pilot, including a shark. Tan initially was skeptical of the lone student's request, but when he asked for a show of hands of who else wanted the outfit, most of classroom voted in favor of the idea. Some of the other outfits include a bee and an astronaut. One feature in the works is the ability to have pets in the game.
"It's an easy way to get them excited about what they're learning and in a way that makes them not realize they're continuing to learn and practice because they're so engaged in the game," Gordon Parks Elementary School Principal Jennifer Hagemaster said during a previous interview.
For teachers, the game provides real-time data and reports that detail which students are struggling and which skills they're struggling with. Teachers also can customize the game to line up with lessons plans for the day and can create homework and quizzes in the game, where assignments are graded automatically.
Boddle is offering free trials to teachers and plans to monetize its product by selling licenses to schools.
"We've been into a lot of these classrooms and we know that there's a need to really help teachers identify these gaps while engaging students," Tan said. "Our vision is to really help students realize their potential. … We want to motivate students to never stop learning and to really believe in themselves."