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Last week, edtech entrepreneurs, investors and analysts gathered at ASU + GSV, an annual global edtech conference, to reflect on the sector’s newly-discovered limelight following the massive shock of COVID-19. Aside from the masked excitement of finally meeting Twitter friends in real life, there were signs of bullism everywhere.
A digital-first talent development platform for interns who previously had no product market fit won the startup trophy. My panels were all with newly minted startup unicorns. And not everyone knew everyone, an achievement that shows how the conference has evolved from a niche industry get-together to a broader event for a new generation of founders.
However, my conclusion from the whole week was more than Edtech is booming (which is what it is). Instead, I felt that the general mood at the conference, even if politely disapproved, was such that the sector that is being spotlighted finally has consent to go anywhere.
In other words, Edtech has reached a point where it doesn’t have to rely solely on itself to achieve its goals. It can operate outside of a silo, which feels like the necessary continuation of the sector’s 2020.
For example, if a platform brings fun of UX to online teaching but doesn’t take into account how that move affects childcare, mental health, and the digital divide, the impact of its clever solution will be immediately limited. The consolidation that will continue due to freshly minted unicorns will not only be Edtech taking Edtech in, but you may see companies start to bring products to market that take into account the entire human experience.
BetterUp, a retraining and coaching platform for employees before and beyond the C-Suite, signals that it is already happening. The edtech company announced it is digging deeper into behavioral health with new products.
Acting beyond Edtech insiders is the difference between developing products that reinforce the status quo and inventing products that turn the status quo upside down. Fiveable, a virtual space for high school students to learn and express, has interned dozens of its users. The feedback loop there is brutal – high schoolers are tough – but it means that the people who make decisions for them are finally not adults talking to adults.
The lack of training wheels, of course, means it’s easier for startups to break away. With the pandemic developing unevenly, distance learning can become normal again. Businesses need to focus heavily on their reach and be humble. It will be important to reflect on what distinguishes a Course Hero from a Codecademy to a Coursera – and when it makes sense to leave your own track.
It was a refreshing, surreal week talking to the people behind the dollars and ideas of our future educational landscape. The shock of the pandemic has highlighted the injustices and the work still to be done. Now the spotlight will be part cheerleading and part accountability coach to help Edtech reflect on its path to a better end product.
The relevance of venture capital
As non-traditional investors get into private startups, there is increasing discussion in Silicon Valley about whether traditional venture capitalists can develop into the new landscape. When tigers eat your lunch, where do you look for competitive advantage and relevance?
Here’s what you should know: Some think venture capital is dead. Others think it’s more nuanced. Everyone agrees that the asset class needs to rethink how and when to invest capital.
Dollars and deals don’t even describe it:
“Regulatory structures can increase or decrease the assets of a company”
Regulations have the power to suspend or limit a commissioning. In a comment earlier this week, Noorjit Sidhu of Plug & Play Ventures argued that regulatory structures – even if they are complicated – can help founders get their bearings, if it is even worth getting into a gray area of innovation.
Here’s what you should know: While regulations are important, it’s ironic that Uber only got a chance to become an icon because it ignored regulations in the early days of adoption. Disturbances have a way of ignoring the rules.
Bureaucracy turns green:
When was the last time you thought about cards?
Do you know what nobody is talking about? Cards. The medium is a powerful tool for consumers and businesses to visually express space and relevance. At the same time, the complexity of maps – from the curvature of the land to the space it occupies – has limited the ease of simply rotating a map.
Here’s what you should know: Felt, who just stepped out of stealth this week, wants to make cards mainstream. Its mapping software has raised $ 4.5 million to date and is a case study of how climate change can energize old products.
Climate change makers: