Research Foundation News

April 20, 2017

SPEAK MODalities named finalist for prestigious national business plan competition, best new product award

Wendt edison SPEAK MODalities co-founder Dr. Oliver Wendt receives the 2017 Edison Gold Award for the company's apps, SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!®. SPEAK MODalities also won the ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education Prize and the Milken Family Foundation Grand Prize at the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition for its work developing evidence-based speech and language therapy applications for individuals with severe autism or developmental disabilities. (Edison Universe photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – SPEAK MODalities, a Purdue-affiliated company developing autism technology that helps communication and language development for children and families affected by severe, nonverbal autism and developmental disabilities, has been named a finalist for the eighth annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) and the 2017 Edison Best New Product Award.

The Edison Award winners will be announced at the 2017 Edison Awards Gala today (April 20) in New York. Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition finalists will travel to Philadelphia’s Penn campus on Tuesday (April 25) to pitch their ventures to investors, researchers, and practitioners.

SPEAK MODalities, a startup commercializing the autism technology apps SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!®, was selected as one of 11 for the EBPC Venture Path finalists through a judging crowd-sourced with teachers, investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers. The company is the only finalist from Indiana. The EBPC features multiple cash prizes totaling $120,000.

Speakall warner SPEAK MODalities research assistant Katelyn Warner (right) assists David Beaudoin with advanced language learning through the company's app, SPEAKall!®. SPEAK MODalities was recently announced as a finalist for the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition and the 2017 Edison Best New Product Award for its work developing evidence-based speech and language therapy applications for individuals with severe autism or developmental disabilities. (Purdue Research Foundation photo) Download image

“The EBPC is considered the largest competition of its kind for education-related startups, so we are thrilled to be named a finalist,” said Oliver Wendt, co-founder of SPEAK MODalities and Purdue assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, and educational studies. “Being named a finalist for this competition shows the potential our startup has to discover new customers in the educational tech space and make an impact directly in the school system.”

The annual Edison Awards competition honors excellence in new product and service development, marketing, human-centered design, and innovation. The Edison Awards symbolize the persistence and excellence personified by Thomas Edison, while strengthening the human drive for innovation, creativity, and ingenuity.

“The Edison Award is a global recognition program to honor innovation and innovators that make a positive impact in the world. We believed this was the perfect fit for our new language training application, SPEAKmore!, which we released last fall with research and development support through the National Institutes of Health,” Wendt said. “The award has a great emphasis on social impact and innovation and has its own category for Language Learning Products, which we thought is a great way to highlight the unique qualities of SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore!.”

The SPEAKall! application has been downloaded more than 34,000 times and is used by eight augmentative and alternative communication centers and 16 speech and language clinics across the globe. It is estimated that up to 66 percent of the 2 million individuals diagnosed with autism are initially nonverbal and do not develop sufficient speech and language to meet daily communication needs. A video about the company can be viewed here.

In 2016 SPEAK MODalities won the R&D 100 Award in the software category and received a Certificate of Recognition from the State of Indiana for making a critical impact on the lives of Indiana families affected by autism. SPEAK MODalities also received the 2015 Best of Education Tech Mira Award from the Indiana TechPoint initiative and placed second in the 2015 Purdue InnovateHER competition. Wendt won the "2015 Outstanding Research of the Year" award by the Autism Society. The company won the International 2014 GAIN-TEN Business Pitch Challenge, an award for startups that have the potential to make an impact on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2013, the SPEAKall! application was recognized with the Focus Award for outstanding contribution to the furthering of Purdue's commitment to disability accessibility.

The SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore! technologies are patented and licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. SPEAK MODalities receives entrepreneurial assistance through the Purdue Foundry, a startup support center based in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, and Wendt has participated as a scholar in the Purdue Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy.

About SPEAK MODalities

SPEAK MODalities was formed in 2013 and obtained an exclusive license to the SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore! technologies from the Purdue Research Foundation. The first commercially supported version of SPEAKall! was released in January 2014. SPEAK MODalities has a mission to expand the reach of SPEAKall! and subsequent products that assist children with special needs to develop speech and language skills.

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Hillary Henry, 765-588-3586, 

Oliver Wendt, 765-494-2462, 

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