A Brief Retrospective View

Here are a few things to provide a bit of context, especially if you have not read my earlier posts in this SIG blog series:

  • US and Silicon Valley EdTech Boom. Developments on this front have been covered very nicely—and continues to be covered—by the great staff of EdSurge, so if you are not subscribing to their excellent newsletter, you are missing out! You may also want to check out what Michael Moe (of GSV Asset Management) has done to chronicle EdTech funding, not just in the US and Silicon Valley but more globally. Anyway, EdTech companies around here have been blessed by growing amounts of money directed this sector, and VCs and angels being much more willing to fund companies in this sector. How long this will continue is of course anyone’s guess. But I must admit I suspect the current pace might not be sustainable for very long.
  • EdTech Accelerators and Incubators. Silicon Valley is again blessed by having Imagine K12 here in Palo Alto, and they have done a terrific job in incubating a number of excellent EdTech entrepreneurs, many coming out of Stanford (right next door), and many of them have gone on to get good VC funding. Another development I found particularly interesting was the announcement in May of a Game-Based Learning Incubator to be built in SF, with support from Zynga and NewSchools Venture Fund. Perhaps not surprisingly, I have been sending notes to many of my Nordic friends suggesting that this is the kind of thing we need somewhere in the Nordic region, as we recently found out that this is a major area of interest across the Nordic region (see next bullet).
  • Nordic Edupreneuring project. This project—funded by Nordic Innovation in Oslo—identified, profiled, evaluated, helped accelerate (via an acceleration workshop at University of Agder— followed by a Pitching Session in Stockholm on June 17. We now want to build on this project to create a Nordic Future Learning Network, associated with Future Learning Lab at University of Agder, led by Professor Oddgeir Tveiten.

EdTech in Europe

The Nordic Edupreneuring project confirmed our suspicions that there are many interesting EdTech companies emerging in the Nordic region (we had 50 companies in our survey), and this was also confirmed by the following statement—“UK and Northern European ed tech companies seem to lead the ranking. This is due to factors such as proactive government attitudes, the widespread use of English language in academic and corporate learning sectors, the encouragement of educators to be technology early adopters and access to risk capital”—that appeared in the article “Europe’s 20 Fastest Growing and Most Innovative e-Learning Companies Named,” written by the Edxus Group in the UK on June 3, 2013.

When I read the Edxus article, and related this to an earlier conversation with the organizers of Online Educa Berlin—the leading European conference on learning, education and training developments, but with very global participation (including a typically very large contingent from the Nordic region)—who also expressed strong interest in edupreneuring issues and trends, I started wondering how this all compares to US and Silicon Valley trends and developments. As far as I know, no one has done this type of comparative analysis, but I would think that European investment organizations that have an interest in emerging EdTech sector—such as Creandum in Sweden (http://www. creandum.com) and EQT Expansion Capital (which recently made a substantial investment in the Norwegian LMS company It’s Learning)—should be interested in supporting research that evaluates how leading European EdTech companies stack up against leading US players.

Future European Edupreneurs

Entrepreneurship is live and well in many parts of Europe, including Berlin, London but also in the Nordic region, and our Nordic Edupreneuring project made it clear that many entrepreneurs see growing opportunities in education, learning and training. I was pleased to see the focus and interest of Edxus in European edupreneurs, and hope they and others can help generate more and better market intelligence around European EdTech initiatives. Lack of good such data was raised in our UiA acceleration workshop as a current weakness that needs to be addressed.

Ideally, VCs with interest in edtech, governments and academic researchers should combine forces to create a European, or at least a Nordic, equivalent of the EdTech Market Map [http://bit.ly/13dWnve] that Michael Horn (one of our panelists at our Future of Higher Education event of Silicon Vikings recently) and Anthony Kim created for NewSchools Venture Fund a few years ago. Michael told me recently that they are now in discussion with an organization with strong interest in edtech ventures to ensure regular updating of the market map, to include new players that enter the market place.

Eilif Trondsen