By Dante Munnis
Tech startups in general have been “hot” for a number of years now. Innovators have developed apps to meet business, entertainment and other needs; other startups have designed a myriad of new technologies and have sought investors in order to develop and scale their innovations.
In fact, capital investment in startups is at an all-time high. Two areas in which investors are particularly interested are education technology (EdTech) and Financial Tech (FinTech). Startups in both of these fields have the potential to completely transform their sectors.
Why the interest in edtech? Because approximately $6 billion dollars is spent annually on education and training around the globe, and investors see an excellent opportunity to “cash in” on those expenditures.
Last December, edtech accelerator Edge held a two-day conference at New York University focused solely on edtech now and in the future. Part of the conference involved presentations by 10 edtech startups that Edge had mentored and fostered for nine months, providing capital investment and other support. Edge only accepts 10 applicants a year out of some 560 from around the globe. While much of the conference was devoted to discussions and presentations of edtech in general, these 10 edtech startups were given time to make their pitches to larger scale investors who will take over where Edge left off.
Of the 10 presentations made, here are five startups I found interesting as they point to the diversity of edtech innovations and new approaches to learning:
Ed-tech for special education is one of the fastest growing facets of the industry. This game-based technology is a fully personalized learning method for special education students, including those with dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, dyscalculia, and dyslexia.
No mouse or keyboard are needed–only hand and body gestures. There is also a cloud-based reporting and monitoring system so that personalized sessions can be planned and progress tracked. This technology is especially effective for short-term member, eye-hand coordination, sequencing, following directions, and attention span.
There is a two-pronged goal for this program: put the spirit of adventure and learning into kids, no matter where they are geographically and inspire kids to work to save the Earth.
Students (or teachers) can purchase a monthly online adventure where they are taken to exotic and rare ecosystems and given challenges/problems to solve to save its inhabitants and thus the system. Its geography, conservation and science rolled into one package.
This innovation is huge. Founded by a Ph.D. in architecture, Build Academy offers both education/training and certification in several areas–architecture and design, engineering and city planning–to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Natural disasters are all the more disastrous when buildings and communities are not designed and constructed according to contemporary standards. Professionals are needed in areas of the world where post-secondary education is not easily accessible.
The concept of the necessity of global reach for edtech is a critical one, and obviously one in which big investors are willing to support. Having skills in construction and city development is big, but consider all of the educational/training areas in which this Academy and others like it can operate.
This concept has almost unlimited potential. Teachers sharing lesson plans and activities with one another is not a new concept. However, how much more incentive would there be if teachers could sell their innovative and creative lessons? Consider how this innovation can scale. Teacher can develop their own “brands” and promote those brands through the same web marketing strategies that any business uses. And it is not just limited to teachers. Schools and even whole districts can develop edtech initiatives and their own brands as well.
Currently, there are online opportunities for kids and adults both to participate in academic or other types of learning. If math, chess, painting and bridge can be taught online, why not athletic skills?
The idea behind Coachtube is to secure exceptional coaches in as many sports as possible. Through podcasts, videos, etc., these coaches will provide training to would-be athletes.
From golf to football, this company is lining up amazing coaches, such as Ohio State University’s football coach Urban Meyer, to take the lack of financial resources or geographic limitations out of the equation for kids who aspire to become great athletes but who lack the resources available to others. Given that virtual reality is an already existing technology, the possibilities for integrating that into coaching are significant.
Why EdTech is So Hot Right Now
From an investor’s point of view, edtech is here to stay. And because education has lagged behind other sectors, both public and private, it is now poised to disrupt conventional education in a big way, just as fintech is poised to disrupt the banking system. Investors want to both improve the reach and the quality of education, but also be in on the ground floor of this revolution profit-wise.
If 2015 is any indicator of investor commitment ($2.5 billion was invested by venture capitalists), ensuing years will bring even bigger numbers. It’s not just the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Government funding edtech anymore, and it is poised to become big business. Those who are able to develop education and training programs that solve real learning problems have the best chance to pitch their products and receive the funding they need.
Any educator who has unique and potentially far-reaching edtech teaching and learning solutions needs to know that this is the time for entrepreneurship. The concepts and approaches of the five startups above could be just the “push” a creative educator forward.
For more, see:
- EdTech Products Supporting ELL
- Why Less Could be More in EdTech
- What’s on the Horizon for EdTech & Education in 2016
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