theCoursebook takes top prize in GSE business plan competition

GSE Biz Plan

Graduate School of Education

Pictured left to right: Penn GSE Dean Andy Porter; Edward Levie and Judd Rattner, of Intellidemia; Alexandre Scialom, of theCourseBook; and Penn GSE Overseer Gregory Milken, of the Milken Foundation.

Alexandre Scialom, a 32-year-old native of Fouju, France, and creator of theCourseBook, took top honors and won a total of $50,000 in prize money in this year’s Milken-Penn Graduate School of Education Business Plan Competition, the only business plan competition solely focused on improving education.

TheCourseBook connects lifelong learners to online and offline resources by helping them to easily locate third-party education resources and by offering guidance to support their professional and personal development.

Scialom, who now lives in San Francisco, won $25,000 for presenting the winning plan, and was awarded an additional $25,000 as winner of the Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources, offered for the first time this year by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, launched in 2009, is the only business plan contest designed to use innovation and entrepreneurship to improve education. The idea of connecting educators, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs interested in educational improvement stemmed from GSE’s inaugural Entrepreneurship in Education Summit, held in 2008. Organizers, however, didn’t foresee the substantive growth of the project within such a short time frame. 

Last year, coordinators sorted through 125 submissions focused on stimulating entrepreneurship in education. This year, nearly 60 judges evaluated 200 submissions from around the world, which they narrowed down to nine finalists who traveled to Philadelphia to compete for the top prize. 

“We are very excited by the growth in both the quality and quantity of submissions,” says Doug Lynch, vice dean of GSE and organizer of the competition. “Many judges felt there were many more ideas than just the finalists that warranted further consideration and funding.”

Judd Rattner, 27, of Troy, N.Y., and Edward Levie, 27, of Davis, Calif., were awarded the $15,000 second place prize for Intellidemia, a syllabus management system that develops information technology solutions for higher education to help institutions meet compliance standards, enhance collaborative interactions and electronically standardize workflow.

“This was an exceptional pool of finalists,” says Andy Porter, dean of Penn GSE. “They came with creative, practical solutions that support K-adult learning and they were exceptionally well prepared to present and defend those solutions to a demanding and thoughtful group of judges.”

Originally published on June 23, 2011