Immersed Gaming team (Kalpesh Award winner 2020)

Celebrating the AT&T Aspire Accelerator Class of 2020

Immersed Games and Social Cipher win annual “Pitches with Purpose” competition; each receive $25K award

Yesterday, eight education technology companies graduated from the Aspire Accelerator and competed in an all-virtual “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 and for the first time, the general public.

Watch the full replay of the event here.

In the end, Social Cipher won the general public and employee vote with their captivating, fast-paced 3-minute pitch. They create video games that give players who are autistic a safe space to practice social situations and build social-emotional skills through play.

“It feels amazing to win Pitches with Purpose, and it's so wonderful to see that there's so much support for our mission out there,” said Vanessa Castañeda Gill, founder of Social Cipher. “We've been through so many challenges this year–we've come out so much stronger with the help of the AT&T Aspire Accelerator and the incredible founders in this cohort. We're beyond excited to take on what's next with this funding!”

The judge’s Kalpesh Award, named for Kalpesh Patel, who was instrumental to the development of the Accelerator – went to Immersed Games, which helps students through online gaming to build science literacy by directly engaging with science phenomena through hands-on experiences.

“I’m so humbled and honored to be recognized among such an incredible group of founders, but also sad that we’re graduating the program because of how amazing the experience has been,” said Lindsey Tropf, founder of Immersed Games. “We’ll be taking the learning with us as we continue to grow and support more students and will be staying in close contact with many of the founders from the cohort as we all learn and grow together.”

Education Innovation in an Unprecedented Year

The Aspire Accelerator was created in 2015 as part AT&T Aspire, a $600 million commitment since 2008 that leverages technology, relationships and innovation to improve education and prepare students for career success.  Program participants have included 70% women-led companies and 51% minority-led companies.

The 2020 Accelerator class shows how women and minority-led startups are transforming education, offering virtual solutions to the toughest issues facing students today: educational equity, disengagement in learning and lack of support for students with disabilities.

And as educators look towards 2021, lessons from COVID-19 and distance learning will also drive the future of education. Key among these lessons is the need for diverse perspective to fuel innovation for more inclusive solutions regardless of backgrounds, needs and experiences.

Learn more about the 2020 Accelerator class and why diverse perspectives are so important to the future of education in Charlene Lake’s LinkedIn post here


Social Cipher co-founders dressed as Ava game characters (Audience/Employee award winner 2020)