LightSail Selected to World's First Accelerator Dedicated to Helping Entrepreneurs Close Global Literacy Gap

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EdTech company’s literacy platform expands globally; major rollout in Latin America

"By improving literacy outcomes, we can truly change the world,” LightSail CEO Gideon Stein.

LightSail, a leading education technology dedicated to turning students everywhere into readers, is among an elite set of entrepreneurial ventures selected for Project Literacy Lab, the world’s first accelerator focused on closing the global literacy gap by 2030.

The inaugural accelerator program begins on July 2, 2016, in northern California, and brings together 16 high-growth ventures across five continents to collaboratively scale their platforms to combat illiteracy worldwide. Today, an estimated 757 million people are not able to read this sentence (in any language) because they remain illiterate. As part of the global campaign Project Literacy, Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, has teamed up with an innovative family of companies in Colorado known as the Unreasonable Group to launch Project Literacy Lab. The program supports promising entrepreneurs selected through a stringent vetting process with world-class mentors, access to financing and a global network of support.

“LightSail is honored to be selected for this incredibly important global initiative. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. We are in the middle of the first major international rollout of our literacy platform across Mexico and Guatemala,” said Gideon Stein, LightSail’s Founder and CEO. “We launched several pilots of our technology in numerous international locations earlier this spring and have been pleased to see how relevant LightSail is for students in school districts around the globe. By improving literacy outcomes, we can truly change the world.”

GROWING INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE
LightSail’s international markets now include parts of Latin America, including Mexico and Guatemala, as well as China, Singapore, Spain and South Africa. LightSail made a key investment in late 2015, which helped students use LightSail’s content and feature-rich application in areas with challenging WiFi access, which is paying off as the company expands globally. Now schools in even the most remote areas can benefit from personalized libraries, embedded assessments and growth data for students and educators.

“1.19 trillion US dollars.” That, according to Jennifer Young, who is a Director of Social Impact Programs at Pearson, “is the cost of illiteracy to the world economy each year.” Young goes on to explain, “literacy is the foundation for learning. Without literacy, people can’t access education, are more likely to experience poverty, and are unable to participate fully in society or take part in economic development. Illiteracy is linked to just about every major sustainable development challenge. That is why Pearson, as the founder and convener of Project Literacy, is excited about our partnership with Unreasonable that has a track record of helping entrepreneurs solve pressing global challenges.”

In addition to LightSail’s library filled with thousands of assessed titles, the adaptive literacy platform offers English as a Second Language (ESL) students audio playback of words to complement English language studies. Spanish-speaking students can choose from 500 titles developed in native Spanish, not translated from English to Spanish, which are currently being used by the Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Evergreen (WA) and New York City public school districts (and beyond) to engage and build confidence as ESL students transition to English content.

SELECTION PROCESS BASIS
The Project Literacy Lab selection committee chose LightSail to participate as one of the 16 most promising growth-stage companies in the world positioned to have a global impact.
“We aren’t working with your typical Silicon Valley startup in this program, and we aren’t looking to scale-up non-profit solutions one would normally think of when contemplating literacy,” says Daniel Epstein, who is directing the Project Literacy Lab and is the founder of Unreasonable Group and partner at Unreasonable Capital. “The 16 selected ventures currently operate on five continents and have raised an average of over $5 million USD in financing to date. Unlike most accelerator programs, we are aligning with already effective solutions and now trying to take them to international and intercontinental scale to impact hundreds of millions of lives.” According to Epstein, “We are hedging our bets on true ‘black swans’: startups that have significant market traction, are working in the fastest emerging markets of our time, and are positioned to measurably close the global literacy gap by 2030.”

During the program, the entrepreneurs will be meeting with 20 renowned mentors, including the Chief Global Corporate Affairs and Marketing Officer at Pearson, the CEO of Sesame Workshop, Paul Polak, who is an entrepreneur who has uplifted over 20 million people from poverty, and the Managing Director of Education at IDEO, etc.

THE IMPACT OF ENTREPRENEURS ON LITERACY
According to Epstein, “Project Literacy Lab aims to spark a conversation around how business investors, and entrepreneurs can put a positive dent on history. LightSail serves as a prime example of a venture solving problems we didn’t think were solvable, in markets most don’t yet consider to be markets, with technologies we didn’t know existed – profitably. Each of these selected entrepreneurs shares a common eagerness to experiment in what it means to measurably close the global literacy gap.”

The accelerator will conclude with a private investor gathering in San Francisco on Friday, July 15. According to Young, “The 16 companies we invited to join us represent some of the fastest growing and exciting growth-stage companies in the world. Our goal is to help scale up their efforts and, in turn, their impact on illiteracy. With one out of every 10 people on this planet locked out of the opportunities that literacy can bring, we need everyone to be part of the solution.”

For more information about Project Literacy Lab, and to sign up for the private investor gathering on July 15, please visit: http://projectliteracylab.com/

ABOUT LIGHTSAIL
LightSail is the adaptive reading platform that helps students, classrooms and school districts exceed their literacy goals.

LightSail students get access to personalized libraries filled with thousands of engaging, just-right texts from which to choose. Our award-winning solution embeds in-text assessments that motivate students to increase the volume of their reading along with the difficulty of the texts they choose.

LightSail teachers get real-time access to meaningful data about student reading behavior, comprehension, and growth so they can provide the necessary guidance to enhance learning and encourage a love of reading.

A study just released by Johns Hopkins University found that students reading a little as 30 minutes a day on LightSail experienced gains at a rate of 2.7x annual expected growth.

For more information, visit http://lightsailed.com/.

ABOUT UNREASONABLE GROUP
The vision behind Unreasonable Group is to launch a portfolio of companies that will together support the next generation of entrepreneurs aimed at leveraging profit to tackle seemingly intractable social and environmental problems.

ABOUT PEARSON
Pearson is the world’s learning company, with expertise in educational courseware and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services powered by technology. Their mission is to help people make progress through access to better learning. Pearson believes that learning opens up opportunities, creating fulfilling careers and better lives. For more visit http://www.pearson.com.

16 SELECTED COMPANIES
*AFRIpads: Providing affordable & reusable sanitary pads to women and girls in East Africa, ensuring girls no longer have to miss school during their periods. Over 1 million Menstrual Kits sold and counting.
*Angaza Design: A pay-as-you-go technology platform that makes solar energy products affordable to the 1 billion individuals without access to electricity.
*Edom: Eliminating malnutrition with fortified food products for over 500 million children & young women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Economy packs sell for $0.4, making them affordable to those who live on $1-2 a day.
*Edovo: Decreasing recidivism by providing the 2.25 million incarcerated adults in the U.S. daily access to educational, vocational and treatment programming delivered via tablet technology.
*Eduze: A South African digital media startup revolutionizing access to education, content and entertainment without high data costs or slow internet. Reaching 6,000 people per unit.
*Guru-G: The fastest growing mobile app for teachers to discover new lesson plans, teach better and improve student performance in India. 86% improvement in student outcomes.
*Guten: The world's first machine learning software designed to assess the readability of texts in Portuguese, personalizing reading instruction for Brazilian students. Used by over 15,000 students weekly.
*Infantium: World’s most advanced computational system bringing emotionally intelligent AI tutors to personalize and maximize learning for each individual child.
*Insane Logic: The UK's leading provider of language and communication development software to the education, social care and health sectors. Supporting over 80,000 people across the UK.
*Karadi Path Education Company: Language-learning curriculum developed over 15+ years of R&D for multicultural, multilingual India. Reaching over 1500 schools and 500,000 children.
*Kingo: Providing a clean, safe and affordable prepaid solar energy service for thousands of homes in Central America and South Africa.
*LightSail: Reading platform combining digital libraries, adaptive learning and real-time data to make school literacy programs more effective. Serving thousands of students across 500 school districts in the United States.
*Livox: World’s first customizable machine learning technology platform for the 1 billion people around the world with disabilities. Over 20,000 users to date.
*SunCulture: Solar-powered irrigation systems that make it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmer profits increase by US $14,000 per acre annually.
*ThinkCERCA: Personalized, online literacy platform for teachers to increase test scores while preparing students for college and life. Closing achievement gap by 264% for low-income students, 456% for black students, and 749% for Hispanic students.
*Ubongo: Educational cartoon TV series and radio podcast that teach kids to love math, science and literacy learning. Watched by over 5 million children per week in East Africa.

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Betsy Peters
@lightsailed
since: 01/2013
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