LAUNCHedu Emcees & Judges

SXSWedu relies on the expertise of a handpicked group of judges and emcees who, based on their demonstrated business and investment experience, are qualified to help determine the viability of a startup. These experts play a key role in the event and help guide the exciting LAUNCHedu education startup competition at SXSWedu, March 3-6, 2014 in Austin, Texas.


Heather Hiles Heather Hiles
CEO, Pathbrite

Heather Hiles is the founder and CEO of Pathbrite, the leading Portfolio Learning Platform in the world. Launched in 2012, the company currently supports more than 500 schools, colleges, universities, and organizations in the U.S. Headquartered in San Francisco, Pathbrite's portfolio platform is poised to revolutionized learning, teaching and assessment internationally as well as domestically.

Before founding Pathbrite, Heather built a career in education, workforce development, and finance spanning over 20 years. She has committed her life optimizing the academic and employment outcomes for youth and adults.

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Her leadership experience includes having founded and led several private and public sector organizations, including: Commissioner for the San Francisco Unified School District; Executive Director of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2); co-founder of EARN; CEO of SFWorks (an NGO to place women from welfare into career); and COO of Break the Cycle (tutorial program for K-3 graders); Board of Directors of Leadership Public Schools.

Heather received her B.A. from UC Berkeley in Economic Development and Ethnic Studies and holds an MBA from Yale University, with a concentration in Finance and Strategic Planning. She was also a CORO Fellow.

Peter Nilsson Peter Nilsson
Assistant Dean of Faculty, English Teacher, Deerfield Academy

Peter Nilsson teaches English and is Assistant Dean of Faculty at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. While he began teaching in 2000, he took a four year break to live in New York City as a musician, writer, tutor, political organizer, and graduate student. He returned to teaching and to school administration in 2009.

Outside of school, Peter has recently written and presented on the topics of cognitive science in education and teaching creativity. Recent venues include the College Board, the OECD, the National Association of Independent Schools, and here at SXSWedu. He is a member of the advisory board for SXSWedu and of the steering committee for a new masters program at UPenn GSE.

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He curates and circulates The Educator’s Notebook, a newsletter aimed at promoting innovation in education, and he keeps a blog on education, cognitive science, and creativity: 

As a teacher, he loves awakening students to the versatility of English through connections between contemporary language and the history of the English language. Favorite subjects include: Anglo-Saxon literature, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and post-colonial literature. He also coaches ultimate frisbee and squash, and he enjoys trail running, music composition, the history of maps, cognitive science, emerging media and technology, and social entrepreneurship.

As a musician, Peter performed in jazz, soul, blues, folk, funk, hip-hop, rock, Americana, and West African music ensembles. He composed music for theater and musicals, and he played in New York City venues such as B. B. King’s, the Bitter End, the Rockwood Music Hall, and the Living Room.  He also performed at the Newport Folk Festival.  He hardly made a penny doing any of this, but he enjoyed it immensely.


Christine OrtizChristine Ortiz
Founder & CEO, [ ]schools

Christine Ortiz is the founder and CEO of [ ]schools, a radically different approach to school model development utilizing interdisciplinary teams, d.thinking and human centered design, and lean startup methodologies. Christine is a serial social entrepreneur who spent her teen years designing the National Truth Anti-Tobacco campaign, has launched several education related businesses, founded Ampersand, a k-12 lab school located in Orlando, Florida and consults on innovation in education.

Chris Liang-VergaraChris Liang-Vergara
Director of Instructional Technology for Personalized Learning, FirstLine Schools

Chris Liang-Vergara was recently named as one of the Top 50 Innovators in Education for 2013 by the Center for Digital Education and is currently the Chief of Learning at LEAP Innovations, a leading EdTech research and advisory non-profit. He is the former Director of Educational Technology for FirstLine Schools where he helped design blended learning models that have resulted in record growth. Liang-Vergara has taught at all grade levels K through 12, set growth records at many of his former institutions, and has experience in public, private, and charter school institutions.

Crystal HutterCrystal Hutter
Chief Executive Officer, Edmodo

Crystal Hutter is the Chief Executive Officer at Edmodo, an organization committed to ensuring that all learners reach their full potential. She joined Edmodo in 2010 as part of the founding team and was named CEO in March 2013. Prior to Edmodo, Crystal made global investments in microfinance, mobile banking, and education ventures for Omidyar Network. Previously, she worked as a senior engineer at Oracle Corporation where she provided technical consulting for Oracle's North American government, education, and healthcare groups. Crystal has an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Katie Beck Katie Beck
COO, 4.0 Schools

Katie Beck is the Chief Operating Officer of 4.0 Schools, a community of educators, entrepreneurs, and technologists building the future of school, one piece at a time. Katie and the 4.0 team connect and support passionate people to launch prototypes, pilots, and ventures that reimagine teaching and learning.   Katie started her career as a 5th and 6th grade English teacher at Schaumburg Elementary in New Orleans. After teaching, Katie joined the team at Teach For America, most recently as Director of Strategy and Innovation. In this role, she led multiple innovation initiatives including a successful effort to triple the number of African American corps members in the New Orleans region, a new program for second year corps members to explore their long term career and leadership interests, and an entrepreneurship pilot that included 25 corps members and alumni. Katie graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Social Studies.

Peter Cohen Peter Cohen
President, McGraw-Hill Education

Peter Cohen was named president of the McGraw-Hill School Education Group in 2013. The Group serves both the PreK-12 and assessment markets. Prior to his appointment, he was chief executive of Pearson Education’s School division, a position he held since 2008. During that time he was instrumental in Pearson’s shift from print to digital resources, the expansion of school services, and the acquisition and expansion of direct instructional services through Connections Academy.

Shauntel Poulson Shauntel Poulson
Principal, NewSchools Venture Fund

Shauntel Poulson is a Principal at the NewSchools Venture Fund where she focuses on investment strategy, due diligence, and management assistance for the Seed Fund.  The Seed Fund makes investments in early-stage education technology companies that have the potential to transform K-12 teaching and learning.  Shauntel was previously a Senior Engineer at Procter and Gamble and an Education Pioneers Fellow at Wireless Generation.  She received her BS in Chemical Engineering from M.I.T. and her MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University.