Pearson Catalyst – interview with Project Manager Debbie Akinpelu

We wrote about Pearson’s Catalyst programme a few months ago, and yesterday we met some of the people running it at a workshop event which formed part of the warm-up for this weekend’s Cambridge education Startup Weekend, which we’re helping to organise.

A quick re-cap on Catalyst – it’s Pearson’s EdTech startup accelerator, designed to find and nurture new education companies whose business ideas fit in with Pearson’s plans in some way and/or which have potential. Every year the programme selects a handful of companies and supports them through the process of creating a pilot product. The idea is that this will help startups get off the ground, while bringing fairly obvious benefits to Pearson for a pretty small outlay.

After Pearson’s presentation about Catalyst at the Cambridge Judge Business School, we managed to catch a couple of minutes with project manager Debbie Akinpelu and she gave us an overview of what the programme is all about.

Pearson’s approach is quite interesting, in that they are being very careful to ensure that the startups they work with are pursuing product and business ideas that are very closely aligned with their current strategic aims. This is achieved by setting a number of ‘themes’ and resulting ‘challenges’ (as Debbie mentioned in the interview) which help to guide the Catalyst team in selecting the most appropriate startups to bring in to the programme. Some of this year’s themes mentioned in the presentation were coding in schools, wearable technology, measuring student progress visually and school internet access in developing countries – that gives you a clue as to the areas of EdTech that Pearson thinks are important for at the moment.

The whole process seems like a very inexpensive way for Pearson to find new talent and product ideas that would be unlikely to come from in-house teams, and to speed up the process of developing solutions to their ‘challenges’. More info at

For more about Pearson’s projects, see here.

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