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Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

2013 Competition Finalists

Holly Carter

New York, New York

BYkids creates innovative curriculum around each of its award-winning films for reach and impact in the American classroom.  BYkids pairs master filmmakers, including Albert Maysles and Ric Burns, with youth (ages 8-21) from around the world to create short documentaries that educate Americans about globally relevant issues.  By giving kids the tools and mentoring to make documentary films about their lives and packaging those films for a wide American audience, BYkids gives voice to youth from diverse cultures, and encourages international understanding and engagement by giving viewers concrete ways to respond.

Each year, the Story Selection Committee — UNICEF and a group of nationally recognized journalists, filmmakers, teens and non-profit leaders — creates a list of potential stories from which five are chosen. These five stories carry the universal values of courage, perseverance, and dignity. Each story is given to a BYkids Film Mentor who spends one month helping the young person make the film. UNICEF provides transportation, lodging, communications, security, local networking, and other diplomatic resources in each project country. These are stories that reflect critical global issues from a perspective rarely told in the mainstream media. BYkids changes the way Americans see the world — and the way the world sees us — by using film as a tool for global understanding and a catalyst for action. 

BYkids packages the films for wide distribution including film festivals, television broadcast, video on demand, DVD distribution, school programs and web downloads. The distribution strategy targets an audience of at least two million viewers. All proceeds from the films go back to BYkids to fund the following year's program.

Holly Carter began her career as a writer and editor at The New York Times and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Since then she lived in Korea as a Henry Luce scholar and print and television journalist; produced the award-winning documentary Margaret Sanger; co-founded North Carolina's Full Frame Festival; served as a consultant for The After-School Corporation; produced the PBS series Media Matters; and most recently was the Executive Director of The Global Film Initiative.

Jill Frankfort and Dr. Kenny Salim

Persistence Plus
Boston, Massachusetts

Through a proprietary platform for colleges, Persistence Plus marries mobile technology and behavioral research to motivate and support more students to a degree.

Colleges are looking for ways to provide increased personalized support for students on a scalable platform at a reasonable cost. The Persistence Plus mobile platform delivers nudges that are rooted in behavioral research.

The Persistence Plus model includes:

Interventions Targeting Common College Obstacles: Through regular behavioral nudges that enhance resiliency, planning skills, and progress tracking, Persistence Plus helps students learn how to prepare for and deal with academic setbacks and external obstacles, organize their time and responsibilities, and make progress toward short‐ and long-term goals.

Social Network Levers: Persistence Plus facilitates positive peer academic pressure by enabling students to easily share academic goals and their progress towards them with friends, and compare their own academic habits to aggregate norms.

An Automated Channel of Communication and Care: Through engaging messages that call for a response, Persistence Plus collects data on the well‐being of students, and uses this information to identify and reach out to students who need additional support before official early alerts.

Rapid Research and Development: Persistence Plus evaluates and assesses the efficacy of each motivational intervention at promoting successful college‐going behaviors in real‐time and uses the data collected to refine its approach for different student populations and contexts. As we learn more about different groups of students in different learning contexts, the Persistence Plus algorithm becomes more sophisticated so we will be able to deliver the right nudges to the right students at the right time.

Jill Frankfort is focused on helping colleges transform how they support, engage, and motivate students to completion. Jill was previously a director at Jobs for the Future where she worked with colleges and districts to improve the educational outcomes of low-income students. She is deeply knowledgeable about college retention issues and success strategies, and has more than ten years of experience as a strategy consultant and education professional. Jill has consulted for education clients and Fortune 1000 companies, is the author of 100 Paid Summer Adventures for Teachers, and has taught high school math. She received her bachelor’s from Brown University and a master’s in education from Wake Forest University.

Dr. Kenny Salim is an expert in developing and implementing initiatives to increase student success.  He was most recently a senior public school district administrator in Boston where he oversaw programs focused on improving college readiness and academic reforms for over 50K students and managed budgets over $20M. As part of his work, Kenny conceptualized and implemented a web-based tool that helps students track their progress towards graduation. The first person in his family to graduate from college, he has a doctorate in education from Harvard University.

Marjan Ghara and Adele Schwartz

New York, New York

BiblioNasium is a free, protected social network for children ages 6-12 designed to engage, encourage, and excite children about reading. Kids read better when they do it consistently and as part of a peer community. The engaging and challenging environment of BiblioNasium provides the tools and support to make a real difference in building interest in reading for pleasure – and a life-long love of books. Unlike any other child’s online reading community, BiblioNasium links parents, teachers and young readers through a unique collection of tools, games, and community-building experiences. And it’s all safe; kids can’t sign up or participate without permission of a parent or teacher.

Marjan Ghara is the founder and CEO of  Marjan is a passionate technologist and an alumna of two prior technology-based startups, with a proven track record in delivering successful high profile and fast paced technology and web properties.   She was also part of the hand-selected team that built the first generation of and (JPMorganChase), and then in 18 months as the Executive Producer built a successful and fully integrated e-commerce platform ( /2nd in its category with $100K daily sales).  An honors graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she has a degree in Systems Analysis and Design.  She is  the mother of two elementary school-age children who are the impetus behind this project.

Adele Schwartz is the Chief Education Advocate of BiblioNasium. Adele is a highly respected Learning Specialist with more than 35 years’ experience in schools and colleges in New York City. She also has extensive experience conducting qualitative research for business and not-for-profit clients, especially in youth media and technology education.  Adele has a B.S. degree in Elementary and Special Education, two M.S. degrees, one in Literacy Education and another in Educational Administration and Supervision, all three from CCNY, and an Ed.D in Special Education and Educational Technology from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. She is lifelong learner and an advocate for quality and innovation in teaching.

Scott Hasbrouck and Lida Hasbrouck

Ann Arbor, Michigan


Ginkgotree is reclaiming the power of curriculum curation for the faculty who teach it, to lower students’ costs and improve their learning outcomes. Our platform allows faculty to build online curricula from any resource, complete with automated copyright clearance and digital content sourcing. We’re one, coherent hub for course materials, a complete textbook replacement.

Scott Hasbrouck leads Ginkgotree's backend development and product direction. Running his own businesses since 8th grade made him the first kid in his class with a cell phone and a credit card. These were always side projects to his education, until he finally decided to jump the PhD train and begin Ginkgotree’s product development in late 2011.

Lida Hasbrouck heads marketing and business strategy for Ginkgotree. With a diverse experience set, including a Chemistry B.A., she has a uniquely scientific approach to branding and marketing. As the Education Technology columnist for the Today’s Campus Update, her writing focuses on bringing emerging education technology to every campus.

Victor Karkar and Andrew Delpha

San Mateo, California

Even though the world uses the Internet to research nearly everything for work, school and home, most folks still use old-school ways of annotating, organizing, and sharing online information (printing to mark by hand, copying/pasting into Word, etc.). It's archaic, laborious, and a waste of time. Scrible brings Web-based research into the Internet Era by empowering people to mark up web pages in the browser and manage and collaborate on them online. Users can annotate webpages in-browser and save, share, and manage them online.

Victor Karkar is product designer and business lead. His diverse background spans the Internet and biotech worlds, primarily in product management and business development. He played a key role as an early team member at (a spin-off of storied enterprise software firm Trilogy), which was acquired by Fortune 500 company Marsh & McLennan. Early in his career, he had a short stint at top-tier venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA). He has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Brown University and a Master’s in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University.

Andrew Delpha is chief architect, hacker and technical lead. He has experience building and scaling two other Internet startups, (subsidiary of storied enterprise software firm Trilogy and acquired by Marsh & McLennan) and (acquired by Network Commerce). He designed and implemented services and object models underlying each business and designed, implemented and maintained test and production environments. Andy has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Engineering from Purdue University and the University of Houston, respectively.

Eve Lebwohl, Graham North and Sam Jacoby

Boston, Massachusetts


EdFolio is an early stage venture based in the Harvard Innovation Lab in Boston. Our mission is to help students and professionals navigate the fragmented world of online education by providing tools to reach their academic and professional goals. The online platform allows students to discover online courses, consolidate academic achievements, and convey those achievements to schools, employers, and recruiters. We are currently building personalized course discovery and learning plans to help our users get the most out of their online education.

The EdFolio team believes that students should be able to take control of their online educational experience. Students should be able to find the best online courses and construct a cohesive, personalized curriculum from a variety of educational sources. 

Eve Lebwohl is an MBA student at Harvard Business School. Eve has worked in Product Management at Zynga, and in Corporate Strategy at the Walt Disney Company, where she helped develop Disney’s educational entertainment strategy.

Graham North is a Master’s student studying Technology, Innovation, and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Graham has worked in education in both Botswana and Tanzania, and spent five years as an advertising copywriter.

Sam Jacoby is a Master’s student studying engineering and media studies at the MIT Media Lab. He researches technologies for creative learning and exploration. Sam has an academic background in computer science.

Michele McKeone

Autism Expressed
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Our team of experts has developed a highly synthesized learning system designed to engage students with Autism and allow them to work at their own pace.  Our mission is to give students with Autism marketable digital-age skills and, therefore, a greater advantage when pursuing their independence. With our expansive curriculum of lessons and activities, our students start by learning such Internet basics as browsing, searching, email, and web safety. Each lesson builds on the previous and includes an activity so they can practice their new skill. Students earn Autism Expressed Achievement Badges to reinforce their progress. Autism Expressed students learn a portfolio of necessary digital skills and a platform to showcase their abilities, thoughts, and feelings. This all results in greater learning and earning potential and student empowerment, as they pursue post-secondary educational goals and their transition to independence.

Michele McKeone, M. Ed., is an award-winning thought leader and innovator in the autism education community. McKeone founded Autism Expressed, the first and only online and interactive curriculum teaching digital literacy to students with autism and other learning disabilities. McKeone's work focuses on changing the paradigm of education for students with disabilities and increasing the post-secondary opportunities for this population.  

Working to continually raise the bar on the educational landscape and level the playing field for students with disabilities, McKeone presents, consults, and facilitates training to reinforce the notion that students with autism and other learning variations can achieve more. The goal is for her company to serve as the catalyst of a new and innovative type of cognitive and social development for this generation of adolescents with autism and those who come thereafter. McKeone holds a B.S. in Communication from University of the Arts and an M.Ed. in Special Education from Chestnut Hill College.

Kimberly Munzo, Don VanDemark, and Kevin Kopas

Tampa, Florida

AspirEDU assists colleges with students in online courses in proactively identifying at-risk students; increasing student retention; and ultimately, increasing graduation rates by assigning a single risk score to every student in your online population. Your school can prioritize retention efforts based on that single indicator. Aspire Analytics, created by an online administrator for online administrators, retrieves data from a learning management system, retrieves the necessary data, applies the algorithm, and populates an easy-to-use dashboard to the administrators of the institution.  Students are given a Risk Index and administrators can drill into the individual student’s profile to determine the risk reasons and to develop a pro-active plan of action.  Through search capabilities and filters, the institution can target its efforts by assigning the right staff to the right students.

Kimberley Munzo, Chief Executive Officer, has over ten years in online higher education, with experience in both nonprofit and for-profit institutions. Kim created the company’s flagship product, Aspire Analytics. The system has been developed over the years, starting as a checklist on a piece of paper, migrating to an Excel spreadsheet, and finally evolving into a software program. She earned an MBA at Saint Leo University.

Don VanDemark has worked as a software developer and project manager for 18 years. His experience includes 14 years at IBM, delivering projects for clients using both U.S. and global sourced personnel. He also serves on a business advisory board for a local school district, blending his software knowledge with his love of education.

Kevin Kopas has contributed to the development of multiple startup companies over the last decade. He manages our industry partnerships and spearheads our product management. Kevin is a graduate of the University of Florida.

Kathleen Schindler and Lisa Mohr

UpSkill Capital
Boston, Massachusetts

UpSkill Capital was formed by six recent graduate students with a single purpose: find a way to sustainably make vocational (skills-based) education more accessible to low income young adults in India. To this end, we have developed a new way to fund vocational training: we pay for students’ tuition upfront and upon completion of their training, students enter paid internships and donate a portion of their wages to repay tuition costs. The repaid money is used to help finance another student, creating a sustainable cycle of education funding.

Kathleen Schindler is co-founder of UpSkill Capital, a private-equity fund on a mission to lift young adults out of poverty through vocational education lending. Kathleen also works as a marketing manager for DataXu, a programmatic marketing technology company based in Boston. Previously, Kathleen was a manager in the consulting practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Australia and chief of staff to the CEO of PwC Australia. Prior to her work overseas, she was a senior consultant for PwC based in New York City. She holds a B.S. cum laude from Cornell University and an M.B.A from the Kellogg School of Management.

Lisa Mohr is co-founder of UpSkill Capital, a private-equity fund on a mission to lift young adults out of poverty through vocational education lending. Lisa currently works as an Asset Manager for a multifamily REIT in Houston and has prior experience in real estate finance. Lisa holds a B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.B.A from the Kellogg School of Management.

Preston Silverman and George Kirkland

Raise Labs
San Francisco, California

Final presentation

Raise Labs is reinventing financial aid, a $100B a year market that is broken for both students and sponsors.  

Most scholarships today are not awarded until the end of high school, at which point many students have already “checked out” or lowered their college ambitions.  Rather than waiting until the end of high school, Raise’s platform enables students to earn "micro-scholarships" throughout high school based on their individual achievements in and outside of the classroom. The mission is to leverage existing aid budgets to measurably boost student performance and engagement during high school.

Raise’s methodology draws on research from leading universities to increase transparency in financial aid and improve student outcomes. Their online platform game-ifies aid, making it simple, engaging, and even fun for students.

Raise has received $36,000,000 in micro-scholarship commitments from leading institutions and will launch in September to 12,000 pre-registered students.

As CEO of Raise Labs, Preston Silverman brings a passion for helping students achieve their college ambitions. He was inspired to start Raise while teaching history and economics at a high school in India. Previously, Preston launched and built the Asia practice of Frontier Strategy Group, a venture-backed software & information services company that supports Fortune 500 companies with their strategic planning. Preston studied Political Science at the University of North Carolina, where he was a William R. Davie Scholar.

George Kirkland is the co-founder of Raise Labs.  After running his own small business in college, George worked at Morgan Stanley, where he spent five years in finance, strategy, and sales.  While working in New York, George mentored high-need students at St. Raymond’s High School in The Bronx, New York.  George holds a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina.