The Open Education Challenge is a new 12 week incubator program that operates in partnership with the European Commission and aims at keeping education startup founders in Europe.
When speaking about the exodus of European founders to the United States my first thought was a quote from Xavier Damman, CEO at Storify, in an interview he gave EurActiv
“In Europe, the best thing we can do is send our innovative, entrepreneurial talent to the US. That way, they can develop things.”
Though I would generally disagree that all hail could only be found in the US, I agree with Damman that it can’t be about establishing a European competing environment, but rather about focusing on what Europeans are good at.
Let’s get back to the promise of the Open Education Challenge incubator initiated by p.a.u education and the Armat Group.
For this first badge 10 European teams can apply for the program that will take place in different European cities. The selection process comes in four different steps, idea submission, shortlist, semi final and final.
The selected teams will get 20.000 Euros initially with a 6% stake in the respective companies for Open Education Challenge which is certainly in line with other (edtech) incubator programs although it should be said that the money is on the lower end of the scale.
Founders will also get access to a group of investors called “Open Education Investment Club”. With entrance to the incubator the teams will grant the club an option to acquire 20% of the startup’s capital at an agreed value for the second stage of development.
Based on these terms I think the program is most attractive for first time entrepreneurs with no or very limited prior experience who want to develop a prototype within the 12 week incubation period.
What I like about the incubator is their approach of exposing the teams to different European cities and thus markets, namely Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin and Helsinki. That said, five European cities in 12 weeks only will be a tough job and we should not forget that the founders have to focus on product as their primary concern not workshops and mentoring.
As for who should apply the Open Education Challenge has what I would call a narrow vision of education. If I look at the description on the website along with who the mentors are, I think it might be most relevant for founders who target the higher education space and schools. I don’t think that teams who develop for the open education market and target lifelong learners or language learners for instance would get a maximum of valuable advice. I would also be doubtful to apply with a B2B solution.
As we all know, about 80% of our learning experiences happen outside of the traditional classroom or university setting, but given both p.a.u Education/Armat Group’s and their mentors’ expertise the focus on higher education and K-12 only certainly makes sense.
Should one apply?
I’m short of a definite answer. There are elements I like, such as the focus on Europe as the market rather than one domestic market only. I think if you’re a startup that would like to work together with universities in the future you might get value and good connections out of the incubator.
Generally speaking, I’m doubtful about the length of the incubator. I find 3 months awfully short, particularly taken into consideration that you will have to travel to see your mentors rather than being focused and working in one place and they will come to see you.
In terms of money, 20.000 Euros for 6% is a little less than average, so I’m neutral on this one. Applicants will also need to cover travel expenses and accommodation out of this 20k pot. Given that the startup teams will consist of two or more people the city hopping during the incubation period will burn through the money pretty quickly. Especially cities like London and Paris are known for their high cost of living. So there is the question how much money will remain for prototyping and testing the MVP.
The teams will also grant the investors a 20% priority right to invest in their startup after the incubation period. On the one hand this might give entrepreneurs some ease of mind as this way a successful Series A round is already somewhat guaranteed. On the other hand I am not sure that the entrepreneurs will get a very favorable valuation after 12 weeks.
Applications are not limited to EU citizens but the startups need to be registered in the European Union.
If all of the above sounds attractive you are invited to send you short presentation video to Open Education Challenge.