AT&T Celebrates 5th Anniversary of Aspire Accelerator with ‘Pitches with Purpose’ - and a Special Guest

We created the AT&T Aspire Accelerator in 2015 to cultivate ed-tech startups and drive change in the classroom through technology. Five years and 35 startups later, companies that participated in the program have reached more than 23 million students and raised $44 million of additional investment.

On December 5, the eight companies from this year’s cohort competed in a “Shark Tank” style “Pitches with Purpose” for two $25,000 prizes – one awarded by a panel of AT&T executive judges and another voted on by AT&T employees.

The atmosphere was electric and the competition fierce as each company took its 3-minute turn pitching their business plans.

In the end, Boddle Learning won the audience’s hearts and votes. The company uses gameplay to boost student engagement and capture data at the same time. The process helps teachers identify learning gaps and differentiate their students’ learning styles.  

“It felt amazing to win the competition,” said Clarence Tan, CEO of Boddle Learning. “I can’t describe it. AT&T has been so helpful, not just with the investment, but with all their help.”

The judge’s prize – named the Kalpesh Award in remembrance of former AT&T employee and longtime Accelerator contributor Kalpesh Patel - went to Cognitive ToyBox,  an early childhood platform enabling the direct assessment of kindergarten readiness skills.

“I’m so grateful for the AT&T Aspire Accelerator team,” said Tammy Kwan, founder of Cognitive ToyBox. “I’m inspired by all the work AT&T does in the community especially for early childhood. I’m excited about what’s next for us.” 

Conversation with a Shark

Prior to “Pitches with Purpose,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson sat down for a lively conversation with entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to discuss entrepreneurship, education, diversity and more.

Between the laughs, Cuban – a shark himself – left his fellow entrepreneurs with some words of inspiration.

“To be an entrepreneur means setting a goal and going out there to find a way to achieve that goal,” Cuban said. “The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is grinding through the ups and downs. You can fail an unlimited number of times, but you only have to be right one time and people will call you an overnight success.”

Watch the full replay of the fireside chat here.

Innovating Education to Build Skills

The 2019 Aspire Accelerator also was part of  a $1 Million AT&T Skills Building Challenge aimed at ensuring today’s students have the skills they need for tomorrow’s jobs. You can learn more about all eight companies from the 2019 Aspire Accelerator class here.

We believe that for our company – and our country – to succeed in the 21st century, we need to ensure that the future workforce has the right skills.