Support for Ed-Tech Innovation


How can your company benefit from partnering with students, teachers, and education service agencies?

In support of Pittsburgh’s start-up community, The Sprout Fund is offering a special funding stream to connect education technology enterprises to the Remake Learning Network, a professional network of educators and innovators in the greater Pittsburgh region.

The Sprout Fund’s Ed-Tech Refinery is offering grants to enable education resource partners to provide support services at no cost for up to 2 education technology companies to enhance the applicability and usability of new ed-tech products in a variety of education settings. Services available to ventures include:

  • User Testing: Connect with educators and students to playtest your product.
  • Curriculum Design: Work with curriculum specialists to develop lesson plans for your product.
  • Teacher Training: Partner with professional development agencies to create instructional modules for educators learning to use your product.

Additionally, selected ventures may be eligible to receive startup support services provided by Thrill Mill.

Sprout is requesting proposals from new education technology companies proposing how they will achieve learning outcomes for children and deliver economic impact in the community by working collaboratively with schools and other nonprofit education organizations to conduct user testing, receive curriculum design support, or develop teacher training programs.

Deadline and How to Apply

Proposals are due Friday, March 4, 2016 by 5pm. To apply, download the application materials as a .pdf >>

Education Resource Partners

The following schools and nonprofit organizations will be available to partner with selected ventures:

School Districts

Pittsburgh Public School District and Elizabeth Forward School District will work with selected ventures to conduct student and teacher user testing of ed-tech products, and develop lesson plans for the use of ed-tech products.

If your company already has an established partnership with a public or public-charter school that can provide user testing and/or curriculum development, you may list that school in your application as your preferred education resource partner. Approval will be considered at Sprout’s discretion.

Thrill Mill

Thrill Mill, Inc. is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization providing mentorship, programming, strategic partnerships, funding and collaborative workspace to early-stage startups across all industries and growth models. Learn more at

Thrill Mill may offer additional startup support services to select companies. Detailed service deliverables will be determined following company selection.

Eligibility & Criteria


Proposals are encouraged from companies headquartered in the greater Pittsburgh region engaged in the design, development, production, and marketing of education-technology products for the Pre K-12 and/or out-of-school learning markets.  Eligible companies will be in the early stages of their lifespan, and have developed a prototype, beta, or pilot product in the education technology space. Eligible companies will be prepared to engage in collaborative partnerships with education resource providers from April through June 2016.


Although there is a wide variety of approaches to education technology, the Ed-Tech Refinery is designed to support the development of products that represent the following characteristics:

  • Creative & Innovative:supports imaginative approaches to learning with an emphasis on Maker, STEAM, or Digital learning.
  • Collaborative & Cooperative:supports the development of 21st century skills including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
  • Equitable, Accessible & Open:contributes to improved access to learning opportunities by underserved learners, and promotes innovative learning opportunities for all.
  • Engaging & Participatory:connects to the personal and shared interests of learners and provides opportunities for them to actively produce, create, experiment and design.
  • Experimental, Catalytic & Transformative:tests promising new ideas with the power to advance learning.
  • Relevant & Impactful:offers enriching experiences attuned to the needs and potential of today’s learners.

Process & Timeline

  • March 4, 2016: Companies submit proposals to Sprout to utilize services of education resource partners.
  • March 2016: A volunteer decisionmaking committee including Sprout staff and participating education resource partners review proposals and select up to 2 companies to be matched with education resource partners.
  • April 2016: Selected companies announced and connected with education resource partners.
  • April – June 2016: Selected companies work with education resource partners to implement projects.

Staff Contact

Sprout encourages prospective applicants to contact program staff in advance of preparing an application. Email your inquiry or other questions to or call (412) 325-0646.

A Sprout Fund staff member can review a draft application up to one week before the deadline to help refine the best proposal for the idea.  Submit your draft application via email to

Ed-Tech Refinery – Proposal Format

To propose a project for the Ed-Tech Refinery, please provide the following information:

Contact Information

Company Snapshot

  • Name of Company
  • Name of President, CEO, or Founder
  • Year Founded
  • Website
  • Has your company participated in an accelerator program? If yes, indicate which one: Thrill Mill, Alpha Lab, Innovation Works, Idea Foundry, other: _______________.

Contact Information for Project Leader

  • Name, Title
  • Primary Email Address
  • Primary Telephone Number
  • Postal Mailing Address

Ed-Tech Product Proposal (up to 2 pages)


Provide a summary of the education technology product your company is developing, as well as details of its current state and your future plans for its development and marketing. Who is the target audience (age and/or grade level)? Is it a product for use in schools or for out-of-school learning? What learning subject or educational focus does the product have? What is the user experience like for both educators and learners? What is the current or projected cost of purchasing or licensing the product?


What motivated your company to develop this product? What was the rationale or inspiration for creating it? Who were your partners or collaborating organizations?

Learning Outcomes

Describe how you currently define and measure the learning outcomes of this product. Does it currently conform to any education standards (e.g., Common Core)? Does your learning experience utilize any certificates, badges, or online portfolios as achievement credentials?

Partnership Proposal (up to 2 pages)

Service Selection

Select one or more of the support services listed below and describe how your company will make use of this service to enhance the applicability and usability of new education technology products. In your response, be sure to address the approximate number of participants, the age range or grade level(s) for the learners, and the expected engagement for teachers and/or administrators. For comparison and scale, the total service value of the Ed-Tech Refinery engagement is approximately $10,000.

  • User Testing: Connect with educators and students to playtest your product in schools and out-of-school spaces. Approaches to User Testing may include live user testing and focus groups; situated playtesting in learning environments; and evaluation of products by education professionals.
  • Curriculum Design: Work with curriculum specialists to develop lesson plans for your product that meet standards. Approaches to Curriculum Design may include design and development of lesson plans; mapping products to state standards; evaluating and improving existing product teaching kits and curricula.
  • Teacher Training: Partner with professional development agencies to create instructional modules for educators learning to use your product. Approaches to Teacher Training may include developing instructional modules for educators learning to use products; developing credit-bearing professional development sessions for products; train-the-trainer models.

Team Members

Who is currently working on this aspect of your business? Who will work on the Ed-Tech Refinery partnership?

Goals & Outcomes

If selected for the Refinery, what will your company be able to do as a result of this support? How will your company contribute to economic growth in the Pittsburgh region after the Ed-Tech Refinery?

Additional Supporting Materials (optional)

Please provide additional supporting materials as attachments. Hyperlinks to online content are acceptable.

  • Company Bio, Executive Summary, or Business Plan
  • Team Overview or Profiles
  • Pitch Deck, Prospectus, or Company Report
  • Examples of Previous Products or Innovations

Submission Instructions

Applications are due on Friday, March 4, 2016 at 5pm. Decisions will be announced in early December.

The preferred method for submitting your application is email. Send application materials as email attachments to

You may also submit your application via postal mail or hand delivery to The Sprout Fund, attn. Ed-Tech Refinery, at  5423 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15206-3423, but please be prepared for a follow-up request to submit your information electronically.  Questions or need help? Email or call (412) 325-0646.

Support for Sprout

Support for The Sprout Fund’s learning programs generously provided by The Grable Foundation, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Hillman Foundation, McCune Foundation, and The Pittsburgh Foundation.

About The Sprout Fund & the Remake Learning Network

The Sprout Fund is Pittsburgh’s leading agency supporting innovative ideas, catalyzing community change, and making our region a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family. Sprout provides critical financial support for projects and programs in the early stages of development—when just a small amount of investment has the potential to yield big results in the community. Learn more at

Remake Learning is a collaborative network of more than 200 organizations working together to inspire a generation of lifelong learners in the greater Pittsburgh region. Learn more and get involved at