Sovereign SmartViews: Who will emerge as the winners in EdTech?
by James England
The EdTech sector is vast – in the UK alone the market has ballooned with companies providing everything from early-learning content tools through to higher education digital publishing. Proving the effectiveness of such tools is key and set against an ever-evolving backdrop of government policy, education funding, and the inherent difficulty in selling to schools, there are challenges to building a business of scale. Partnering with an experienced education investor can help to cut through the noise.
At Sovereign’s latest education roundtable dinner, to explore this landscape in more detail, we invited an ex-government education minister to take questions and comments from EdTech business owners.
The key theme that shone through was ‘measuring effectiveness’; the following points emerged:
- Performance is a clear focus of schools and the DfE, but the areas in which EdTech firms operate (and the fact many sell direct to parents) make it difficult to quantify their direct impact on, and contribution to, a child’s learning from a purely statistical perspective.
- Whilst Edtech providers products have subscribers in the thousands and hundreds of thousands, and often across large numbers of countries, uptake alone is not sufficient to prove effectiveness.
- Despite the vast amounts of data generated by day nurseries, schools and Ofsted each year, there is no single repository for evaluating such data in order to understand which specific tools help deliver the most effective pedagogy. It’s therefore difficult for headteachers to make informed decisions on which tools to introduce to their schools to improve performance.
To address this, wider scale studies have been launched – collaborations between private firms and universities – to create a framework to judge the best products and tools. Whilst it’s not compulsory for firms to provide their products for testing, the hope is this will provide a reliable way of judging measurable outcomes.
Against this backdrop the real winners in the sector will be those who can create a significant and sustainable business which manifestly helps schools and learners in the UK and overseas to achieve better results. Key to this will be developing data on a product’s effectiveness; investing in management information tools to help prove effectiveness at scale and an unrelenting focus on educational outcomes.
This is often where Sovereign gets involved. Where an established business has a plan to expand, we provide initial and follow-on funding to management teams to enable them to take advantage of opportunities. This opens the option of accelerated growth via inward investment or strategic acquisition. Education is an international sector which suits Sovereign’s outlook – we’ve had success in the UK, continental Europe, the Middle East and North America – and continue to search for opportunities to back interesting and ambitious education providers. For further information, please get in touch