“Teachers are very busy,” says Evan Clark, co-founder and director of educational content provider ClickView, which launched nearly 20 years ago. Clark, who also advises other early-stage edtech startups, believes that companies have little chance of widespread adoption across schools unless they address basic teaching requirements or pain points regularly experienced by teachers.
“I’m skeptical of the vast majority of new edtech products entering the space, knowing the million and one tasks teachers are already required to perform,” he says. ”Saving teachers time remains the recipe for success in the edtech space.“
Just as teachers, no matter how short a time they have, are motivated by student success, so should investors, according to Pivot’s Bickerstaff.
“It can be a learning process for those who are interested in edtech because the measure of success is not just dollars,” she says. “It can be easy to think that [investing in edtech] it will work like other types or businesses or verticals. And it doesn’t. There are different types of schools and contexts and communities.“
That’s a message echoed by Cluey CEO Mark Rohald, who founded the company to address gaps in student learning outcomes in an “industrialized model” of education.
“It is not a quick investment. Things take time in education to turn the dial,” she says. “If you’re going to launch something, you won’t know the value it creates until a reasonable amount of time has passed.
“It’s not transactional like retail where you go online and promote your product and either sell it or don’t sell it. The result is not only the payment for the service, but the gain in learning, the gain in improvement and the acceptance of the services in the long term”.
Canopy Study, an AI-powered app that automates quizzes and diagnostic tests for students, is the latest education technology startup to be established and has attracted a $1.1 million investment from venture capital firm Folklore to early this month.
Folklore investor Dan Fleming says the pandemic has “exposed a lot of the vulnerabilities within education and showed us that it’s still in the early stages of technology adoption.”
“It’s not just about integrating Zoom into classrooms; we’re talking about technology reshaping the industry and the philosophy around how we learn.”
“The sector is still ripe for disruption,” he says.
Education is a slow and often challenging industry to innovate in part because of its size and bureaucracy, but also because of the huge impact it can have, according to EduGrowth’s Linke.
“My opinion is that education should rightly be a slow and innovative space because it is about people learning and what their life will be like,” he says. No parent in the world wants his child in a classroom that is going to be experimental.”
“You don’t get into edtech because you want an easy way to make money,” Bickerstaff admits. But she is buoyed by the growth of social impact investing in the space.
“That incentivizes us to create the best we can, so that becomes the value.”
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