A widely quoted figure is that in 2020, which is fast approaching, the EdTech industry will be worth over $250 billion globally. In 2017, global seed and VC-backed investments in the sector jumped 30%, to $9 billion, highlighting it as a promising growth area.
Globally, the education sector as a whole is undergoing massive growth. In America alone, spending on education technology now exceeds $13 billion.
As populations increase in developing countries and regions, the number of K-12 and university age students is going to dramatically increase. Population estimates indicate there could be 500 million more students by 2025, with the size of the education market worth around $8 trillion, up from $5tn in 2019.
Within these seemingly massive figures is the $250 billion market cap for EdTech we mentioned. In the context of other sectors, such as healthcare, this seems a relatively small spend on tech. Education, for the most part, is a publicly-funded sector. It’s capital poor, and governments with debts and deficits are still struggling to fund it at pre-recession (2007-10) levels.
What does this mean for EdTech entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs and startup founders in the education space need to take budgets and the challenges of gaining traction into consideration. In this respect, little has changed in EdTechnology for over a decade.
Except for the fact that schools at every level and age group are more welcoming of technology. New EdTech tools and solutions are being adopted at a faster rate. Students have also changed. Everyone in education, whether at kindergarten (nursery) or university was born in a digital world. As are many who are now teachers.
Very few in education need convincing of the value of a new tech solution. More often than not, if there is proven value and use in a solution, and it solves a problem or does something new, then the challenge is budgetary. Beyond budgets, there are also risk and compliance challenges. Training, too. Educators need time — another precious resource in the sector — to learn a new tool or piece of tech, and then encourage end-users to start using the solution.
Education is a promising, high-growth sector. It has enormous potential, especially as tech, apps, hardware and software plays an increasingly important role in education. However, as pointed out here, there are several challenges EdTech startups need to overcome: budgetary, compliance, adoption and training.
How can EdTechnology startups overcome these challenges?
Understanding the funding landscape. Education funding is local, national (in some cases, state and federal), and depending on the price associated with anything new, there are other pots of money, or opportunities, such as Public-Private Partnerships. Knowing what you need to charge and then having a clear idea of how a potential customer is going to pay for it will save a lot of headaches later on.
Understanding the needs of decision makers, influencers, end-users and budget holders. In education, you might be dealing with a range of equally important key actors in any decision: teachers, students, parents, head teachers, and boards of governors. Again, it all comes down to budgetary levels. When something is more expensive, more decision makers are going to be involved, and you will need to know what pushes everyone’s buttons to move discussions the right direction.
Make the business case. In most cases, any startup that has customers and revenue has already figured out product - market fit. It can take time. It isn’t always an easy one to figure out how to market an educational app, even if you think your first idea is a solution to a problem you have seen, or even encountered time and again. When making the business case, look at how a problem is solved from every angle. Business cases in education include cost benefit and even ROI calculators. When budget plays such a key role, potential suppliers need to demonstrate every advantage before commitments are made.
With those mission-critical aspects to consider, entrepreneurs need to pick the right opportunity to run with in 2020. If you already have a startup, but not enough traction, now might be a good time to pivot. If you are new to this sector, then review an opportunity carefully to avoid wasting time on following trends in educational technology that might not have enough upward potential.
2020 growth areas: predictions
When it comes to EdTech industry growth in 2020, it isn’t only about what educational product you have created. It’s also where you want to launch. America, China and Europe are of course the largest markets for EdTech software and apps.
However, that means operating in markets with a lot of competition. Depending on what you have developed, you might find some difficult and embedded competition in those markets. And not only from startups. Big educational companies and publishing giants, such as Pearson (also an active investor in EdTech, with $50 million committed over 3 years) dominate the market, alongside promising high-growth education startups, like First Code Academy.
So, if you want to focus on long-term opportunity areas, consider South East Asia, Latin America, India and Africa. Look at where there is greater need, and although budgets are different, opportunities are across a much larger scale.
In Brazil, for example, the Omidyar Network has already invested in the following initiatives: 4.0 School, Agenda Edu, and AltSchool. They have also invested in a range of for-profit companies and ventures: Geekie, Guten News, Digital House, Ensina Brasil, Laboratoria, and the Innovation Center for Brazilian Education (CIEB).
Alongside looking at a more global range of opportunities, entrepreneurs need to think about which solutions and technology trends in education are worth investing in. What do schools, teachers and students need the most?
We know, from a J-PAL North America (based at MIT) review of 126 studies that educational software has “enormous promise in improving learning outcomes.” Schools, therefore, are still likely to want to keep investing in software and “computer-assisted learning.”
Entrepreneurs need to work out what educational apps are on the market and whether what they are potentially offering and creating is different. Uncovering new growth areas and opportunities in education isn't necessarily about coming up with the best idea. It’s about understanding what is already on the market, finding the right product - market fit, proving a business case/ROI, and then using all of this data and market knowledge to sell a new solution at scale.
Whether this is an AI-powered learning assistant for special needs pupils, or a VR or AR training tool for those going into practical apprenticeships, market data, customer insights and feedback is as important, if not more so, than the ideation stage. In education, ideas are everywhere. Proving an idea has value and is worth investing in is far more valuable.
The EdTech space presents a wealth of exciting opportunities for businesses big and small to develop educational technology as a product or service. Being an EdTech software company with decades of experience, we understand the current technological trends in teaching and learning. We leverage this knowledge to create effective EdTechnology solutions for our clients. Contact us to get more information.