Exploring AI Literacy with Alex Kotran: Transforming Education for the Future

Jun 18, 2024

Welcome to another episode of Techstars Founder Features! In this edition, we delve into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) education with special guest Alex Kotran, CEO and cofounder of The AI Education Project (aiEDU), a nonprofit organization dedicated to AI literacy. If you're curious about AI, its impact on startups and entrepreneurship, or the ethics that come with this powerful technology, you're in the right place.

A Journey of Change: Meet Alex Kotran

Alex Kotran's path to spearheading an education nonprofit is as intriguing as the mission he champions. As a first-generation American whose parents fled Lebanon during its Civil War, Kotran grew up in a family deeply entrenched in education. His father teaches computer science at the University of Akron, while his mother has dedicated her life to teaching and is now a principal at a public school in Akron. 

Kotran didn’t initially set out to revolutionize AI education. His early career took him to the dynamic world of politics, working for the Obama campaign and later the administration. Transitioning to the tech sector, Kotran gained firsthand experience at companies like Airbnb and Oracle, just as discussions about AI were heating up in Silicon Valley.

The AI Education Project: Vision and Mission

aiEDU (Techstars 2022) was born from a simple but profound realization. During a conversation with his mother, Kotran recognized a stark disconnect: While AI was a hot topic among technologists and policymakers, it was barely mentioned in American classrooms. This insight was the genesis for a project that seeks to make AI literacy accessible to all K-12 students.

"We're a 501c3 nonprofit," Kotran explains. "We've been advocating for AI literacy or foundational AI education for the last four years. Our approach is modular, focusing on activities and projects that offer students hands-on experiences with AI tools and engage them in ethical debates."

Building an Accessible Curriculum

aiEDU's curriculum is designed to be free and easy to use for any K-12 school, aligning with core subjects such as English, science, math, and social studies. It provides an avenue for students to understand the ethical considerations of AI, preparing them for a world where AI is an integral part of everyday life.

Kotran highlights a critical issue: "Most AI education was happening in summer camps, after-school programs, and advanced computer science classes. In Akron public schools, where my mom teaches, they have 20,000 students and one computer science teacher. We decided to build a curriculum that didn't require a computer science teacher to deliver."

The Rapid Pace of AI Development

With AI evolving at breakneck speed, the urgency of aiEDU's mission has never been clearer. Kotran shares an eye-opening observation: "AI advancements are moving like a waterfall. New tools are being released every week." The maturity of cloud computing, semiconductors, and data collection, combined with advancements in large language models, has created a perfect storm for AI innovation.

Kotran emphasizes the critical need for proficiency in using AI tools, including an awareness of their limitations and ethical considerations. "Students need to understand how AI will impact their futures and be prepared for roles as workers, citizens, and creators in a world increasingly driven by AI."

Key Ethical Considerations

Understanding AI's ethical dilemmas is crucial. Kotran points out several key issues, such as the alignment problem (ensuring AI acts in our best interests), bias in AI models, and the potential societal impacts of AI-driven decisions. These ethical considerations are embedded in aiEDU's curriculum, encouraging students to critically analyze AI technologies.

The Future of Work and AI's Role

AI is poised to reshape the workforce dramatically. One of aiEDU’s core messages is that people should be concerned not so much about AI taking their jobs, but about someone using AI to outperform them. This calls for a proactive approach to AI literacy and skill development.

"We believe that to avoid economic displacement, individuals need to become proficient users of AI tools. This is why education is the key," said Kotran.

The Importance of Mentorship and Support

aiEDU’s journey is also bolstered by strategic partnerships and mentorship, notably from programs like Techstars. Kotran recounts his experience with the Techstars Workforce Development Accelerator, which provided invaluable connections and insights tailored to aiEDU’s mission.

"Talking to mentors with deep experience in the education and workforce space has been transformational," Kotran notes. These connections have enabled aiEDU to secure critical partnerships and continue expanding its impact.

Looking Ahead: Scaling aiEDU’s Impact

Moving forward, aiEDU aims to double or triple its team size, driven by the significant funding they’ve attracted from tech giants like OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft. Their goal: ensure every student in America has access to AI education and is prepared for a future dominated by AI technologies.


As AI continues to evolve and integrate deeper into our lives, the mission of aiEDU becomes increasingly vital. Preparing the next generation to navigate and shape an AI-driven world is not just an educational imperative but a societal one. Kotran and his team at aiEDU are on the front lines of this mission, dedicated to equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive. 

Are you ready to join the AI literacy movement? Whether you’re an educator, parent, or student, exploring aiEDU’s resources might be the first step toward a future where we all can harness the power of AI responsibly.

This blog post is based on an insightful discussion with Alex Kotran, captured by Dylan Scott, on Techstars Founder Features series.