Investors are looking at education technology through new eyes. We all know that the pace of change within the education technology industry accelerated during the Covid-19 Pandemic. What is also clear is that the forced change in behaviours by consumers created new patterns of behaviour going forward. Parents and children used technology more, became more comfortable, competent and in many ways embraced it. It started as a necessity, but the successful education technologies will continue to be used extensively post-covid and into the future. This means that education technology companies are expanding, seeking investment and taking advantage of new opportunities.
What are they looking for in a perfect education technology investment opportunity?
Here are 8 things they are considering:
A Strong Team of Education Technology Experts
Like any invention, company or initiative the key ingredient is a strong leadership team of technology experts. It is important to look for a balance of expertise in both the technology as well as the business and the investment sides of the project. Start ups are also more successful when the teams balance depth of knowledge with a breadth of expertise. The business approach is an entrepreneurship model and the leaders driving the business need to be able to look outside of the box. There must be strong expertise across multiple sectors and areas because like all start ups the team needs to be prepared to “do what ever it takes” and “anything required.” The team also needs to be able to navigate different contexts. The concept of “local knowledge” needs to be translated to ” as appropriate to all international contexts.” The project leaders also need to have credibility in the eyes of the market influencers. Although the end users may be children or parents, it is the educational institutions or the advocates in the industry who are your levers, influencers or brokers in this market place. They will purchase the technology or promote it directly or indirectly.
A Customer Focussed Technology Idea
To state the obvious, all projects need to satisfy a customer need. It needs to provide a solution to an existing problem. Project leaders must have a clear understanding of the specific needs of end users. They need to drill down and understand the characteristics of that need, barriers to accessibility or obstacles to the solution. Surprisingly, the project may sometimes satisfy a need not yet known to the potential end user and this might be the more exciting phase of potential new projects. Who would have thought we would need many of the automated services, social media platforms or inventions that are currently emerging.
A Strong Research Base With a Clear Rationale
While projects most often begin with a “great idea” they are rarely successful unless there is clear evidence that it will solve the problem. Especially in the education technology space, we know that flashing lights and moving objects might initially attract our eyes, the project is not sustainable unless many people know it has an educational impact. It will make a difference! Education experts will want clear evidence and justification about how this product or service accelerates or improves learning. When we understand how children, or adults, learn best then we also know how well the technology will fit. Project leaders will most often have invested time, or money, into research that, without doubt, proves effectiveness. They will be able to quote several sources of information that makes their argument clear.
A Very Strong and Sustainable Business Model
To achieve success we need to create an education technology model that will eventually have a life of its own. Sustainability is achieved when it needs less energy for it to naturally continue its expansion. If a project needs constant and regular new investment, frequent attention, change and adjustment then it is not yet “sustainable.” The project leaders need to become somewhat obsolete in time, in order to move the project from an idea, to a small business and then on to a large scalable project or company. Investors will plan for an exit strategy. A company has greater worth when its scale will continue to grow. The company becomes more valuable.
A Strong Vision That will Make a Difference
A project must demonstrate that it will make a significant impact. If the vision is unclear then the exact point of impact will also be unclear. Visions and missions such as “improve education quality” are far less convincing that a plan to “improve literacy levels in 4-6 year olds”, for example. Providing education access to children who otherwise do not have quality science education by removing barriers, reducing costs and increasing accessibility to quality materials is far more attractive story. Be specific about how you will make a difference. Education technology investment is attractive for individuals and companies who see the same vision and its impact, as you do.
Systems that Measure Impact of Education Technology
Investors quickly cut through marketing spin and it is important that your analysis and justifications are backed up in a credible way by data. I draw your attention to a concept we refer to as “distance travelled.” As a result of a user working with a piece of new education technology how much progress and change occurred? If you have systems in place that measure and evaluate learning progress, not just potential, then your argument is stronger. The product needs to work and the evidence needs to be irrefutable.
Education Technology Investment With Scalability
Are you making widgets out of your garage or do you have a scalable company that will continue to grow? A strong argument for investment is clear when you can demonstrate the potential of scale. Your business model should demonstrate that it can increase exponentially, reduce costs over time and reach markets that are not currently satisfied. No one expects this to happen quickly but it must be evident that your plan and project has a clear plan to achieve it.
What are the education technology investment trends to look out for beyond 2020/2021?
Internet of Things (IOT) – refers to all the myriad of things we might connect to the web. We use smartphones, and other devices to enable better communication between students and teachers. We use unique technology solutions like interactive displays eg. Promethean, learning environments like Blackboard, and tools like Magicard, among many others.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – AI can easily be utilised to transform the many different components of teaching and learning processes. Automated algorithms can save time by checking students learning progress based on feedback loops that constantly observe behaviours. The AI solutions can identify the main obstacles students face while learning, systemise them, and help improve their education ecosystem. While humans find differentiation of learning experiences labour intensive, these solutions save time and improve the efficiency of teaching and learning.
Blockchain – People tend to know about Bitcoin but do they understand the opportunities that sit behind these new technologies. Blockchain can be used to issue diplomas but also validate these credentials by storing them on a blockchain. It is a secure alternative to paper copies of a qualifications and of course fake degrees.
Big Data – We know that data, including the application and analysis of it, can maximise performance. When it is more easily accessible and it’s analysis becomes a tool to changing teacher and learning environments we can improve achievement.
Robotics – Robots and artificial intelligence technologies can create learning systems that adapt to and support all students, especially those with learning difficulties disabilities. Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are just two simple examples that have gone mainstream in recent years and are easily applied in learning environments.
For more complete descriptions check out: 5 EdTech trends that will transform education in 2021
It is an exciting time to turn challenging circumstances into opportunities. We often say that it was not the pandemic that necessarily transformed education. Change was already in motion however the circumstances of 2020/2021accelerated that change. We moved faster as a necessity and the new technologies were tested in very real and challenging circumstances. The weak fell and the strong will survive. Education investors are looking closely for the opportunities that are going to step forward, scale and make sustainable change. Education technology investments are very attractive opportunities for investors right now.
Contact us, share your ideas and make a pitch. We are happy to be critical friends and to connect you to the right partners for your company and technology’s next steps.
Global Services in Education (GSE) is always looking for new technologies that can help accelerate learning. In fact we are education advisors to a number of investors, investment funds and start up groups looking for opportunities.
CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.
Global Services in Education set up and operate schools in all parts of the world. Governed by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion to help shape international education and student achievement through inspiration and collaboration.
Our goal is to meet the highest objectives of every school, teacher, student and parent, with an unwavering dedication to quality education, shared ideals and intercultural perspectives.
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