Research Foundation News

December 21, 2017

Purdue communication, education startup joins Project Literacy Lab to advance literacy skills for children across the globe

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – SPEAK MODalities, a Purdue startup helping children diagnosed with minimally verbal autism advance their communication and reading skills, has joined Project Literacy Lab, an international entrepreneurial accelerator created to close the global literacy gap by 2030.

Project Literacy, a program co-foundered by education and publishing company Pearson, assists startups identified as successfully helping children and young adults who need assistance in improving their reading and comprehension skills.

SPEAK MODalities developed SPEAKall!, a mobile application that assists with natural language development for children using a platform that constructs and reads aloud the sentences constructed by the users.

“Through this program, we will receive ongoing mentorship from senior executives at Pearson and others that will help companies like ours to amplify growth,” said Mike Zentner, CEO of SPEAK MODalities. “We hope to effectively expand the reach of our existing products to more people.”

Project Literacy Lab offers a 10-day intensive program connecting startups with experts in business and entrepreneurship. Leaders in the program include Aleem Walji, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation and former chief innovation officer of the World Bank; Tom Chi, the founder of Prototype Thinking LLC and former head of experience at Google X; and John Stossel, author and television personality from ABC’s 20/20.

As a participant, SPEAK MODalities will be matched to mentorship and financing opportunities for rapid commercial growth. Zentner recently presented at two exhibitions in New York during Project Literacy Lab.

“Project Literacy Lab is an opportunity to network with other companies and, potentially, establish mutually beneficial relationships that can help each business grow,” Zentner said. “It is important to see large companies, like Pearson, participating in campaigns that have business and social impacts. We want to join this community of entrepreneurs with an emphasis on social impact.”

Pearson collaborated with Unreasonable Group, a business investment firm assisting entrepreneurs with difficult challenges, to create Project Literacy Lab.

“The Unreasonable Group is aligning with solutions that are already effective in their market,” said Daniel Epstein, CEO of Unreasonable Group. “Now, we are helping these entrepreneurs scale their business to impact hundreds of millions of lives.”

The program already has assisted 29 ventures. SPEAK MODalities participated in the second annual event in November.

“Developing universal literacy requires new problem solvers, like entrepreneurs,” said Kate James, Pearson’s chief spokesperson for Project Literacy. “We need everyone to work together to tackle this global crisis.”

SPEAK MODalities receives entrepreneurial guidance and technology licensing from Purdue Foundry and the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

About Project Literacy

Project Literacy is a global campaign co-founded and convened by learning and publishing company Pearson. The aim is to bring the power of words to the world, by building partnerships and driving action. Illiteracy is a global crisis. It affects over 750 million lives - one in ten people alive today. It costs the world $1.19 trillion a year.  

Writer: Kelsey Henry, 765-588-3342,

Purdue Research Foundation Contact: Cynthia Sequin, 765-558-3340,

Source: Mike Zentner,

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