IVCA Profile: Jeff Dunn, Senior Director of DV X, a New Higher Education Tech Incubator at ‘1871’

IVCA Profile: Jeff Dunn, Senior Director of DV X, a New Higher Education Tech Incubator at ‘1871’

February 4, 2015

The Merchandise Mart environs of “1871” has been a boon so far for budding entrepreneurs, businesses and especially lab incubators – those groups who create a place for potential start-ups to find a niche in the marketplace. The DeVry Education Group has just launched DV X Labs at 1871, and has four start-ups already in development. This higher education technology, research-and-development arm of DeVry offers business education workshops, interaction with academic leaders and other resources in their 2000 square foot space within 1871.
 
Jeff Dunn, Senior Director of DV X, is a product strategy and innovation leader with over 13 years of private sector education experience. He joined DeVry in 2010, and was instrumental in building the Education Group, that unites academic, design and product expertise within one team. Mr. Dunn spoke to the IVCA about the origins and goals of the DV X Labs.
 
IVCA: You are specifically developing educational tools within the incubator to support budding education technology entrepreneurs. How was that program designed, and how does sharing your '1871' space with the Startup Institute play into the support education?
 
Jeff Dunn: Our incubator was designed to surround start-ups with people and programing to help them succeed. We connect them with academic leaders who provide mentorship, and help them explore pilot opportunities across our global test kitchen of academic institutions. We also try to integrate them in the Chicago startup community, where they can meet potential investors and like-minded entrepreneurs. We also run workshops and other events, on topics that help them improve their products and scale. 
 
1871 is home a several organizations involved in education, including our ‘roommate’ Startup Institute. There was no plan behind it, other than space requirements and scheduling logistics. That said, there are natural synergies between us that we might explore in the future.
 
IVCA: You've already accepted four start-ups into your incubator – Youtopia, SmartyPants, YuJa and Century Tech. What was the criteria for determining this 'Founding Class,' and what expectations does the program have for them?
 
Dunn: We started with a ‘best available’ approach...looking for the best and brightest from across the world. Certain areas resonate with us a bit more than others, but we also knew that some of these startups would surprise us with ideas we hadn’t considered. We didn’t want to leave them out. 
 
IVCA: What unique features do each of the start-ups have, that will specifically innovate education?
 
Dunn: They all seek to engage students more deeply in the learning experience and do more heavy lifting so that students and teachers can spend more time teaching and learning.
 
IVCA: Education and how it's delivered is a hot-button topic in America, especially in public schools. In your opinion, how does innovation in education technology evolve learning, and how can it be equitably applied over all types of school systems?
 
Dunn: Education isn’t ‘delivered,’ it’s an ecosystem for interaction –  a place or space where students engage with content, teachers, and each other on-site, online, or on the go. Technology can enable and inspire entirely news ways of thinking about the education process, which excites us. It can lower barriers to entry and help individualize the teaching and learning experience at scale. 
 
IVCA: In regard to information for the IVCA membership, how can investors interact with your incubator, and how can they seek more information about what you are doing?
 
Dunn: They can read a little bit about our incubator on 1871.com. We're creating our own website now and expect to make it available this summer. Investors can always reach me directly as well.
 
For more information about DV X, contact Senior Director Jeff Dunn via the DeVry Eduction Group, 300 South Riverside, Chicago 60606, 312.909.2572.