WIVA students research an Edtech startup helping children with learning challenges and direct it to a fundraising platform

After rigorous research, the student team at Wharton Impact Venture Associates (WIVA) is excited to suggest BrainLeap Technologies, an education technology startup, to the crowdfunding platform Netcapital in order for it to potentially receive funding from investors.


brainleap-technologies-logoAccording to research at Oregon State, children who had stronger attention skills at age 4 were 50% more likely to complete college by age 25. Children with weak attention skills have disadvantages in their ability to read, to learn, and to fit in with their classmates[1]. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. Alarmingly, rates of ADHD diagnoses in the U.S. have been rising over the past 20 years, and today, nearly 1 in 10 children is diagnosed with ADHD[2].

BrainLeap Technologies is a research-backed startup that has been built on over 50 years of experience from leading neuroscientists. BrainLeap has developed gaze-driven video games that train the attention skills that are important for reading and executive functioning. The video games are controlled entirely with eye movement via an eye tracker and are designed to drive child engagement and fun. The games leverage the shared neural circuitry of the eye movement system and the attention system to train fast shifts of attention, inhibitory control, fixation of gaze, and anticipatory focus.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the games were initially created and tested at UC San Diego. Further R&D funding was provided by the National Science Foundation after BrainLeap was launched. By training the underlying skills that support attention, BrainLeap has created a product with positive research results across multiple indicators of attention. These results have been achieved with as little as 20 minutes of play per day over an 8–12-week period.

Co-founder Jeff Coleman says, “BrainLeap’s mission is to empower one million children per year to train foundational attention skills through fun and engaging video games. Strengthening foundational attention skills can change the trajectory of a child’s life.”

Wharton MBA student and WIVA Associate David Cao (WG’23) connected with Coleman, also a Wharton alum, earlier in the year and was impressed by the company’s potential for positive impact. “Some of my closest relatives have attention deficit difficulties, and so when I came across BrainLeap’s innovative and research-backed solution, I immediately saw immense opportunity,” Cao said. “This could be a scalable solution that helps millions of children improve the attention skills they need to do well in school and in life.”

Working closely with Wharton Social Impact Initiative staff, WIVA students conduct research based on rigorous investment and impact criteria. Students analyze deal fundamentals, review market trends, and establish the scope and scale of impact.

“Gamification is a trend that we have seen clearly and persistently across the Edtech sector, and our students’ analyses shows its significant potential to improve learning outcomes,” said Vaibhav Gowda, Impact Program Associate at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. Vaibhav helps to manage the WIVA program.


[1] Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

[2] Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html



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