Tag Archives: incubator

HEDLINE: Sanoma announces Learning Outcomes Accelerator

Sanoma Learning, a leading European learning company, announced the launch of a new innovation program titled Learning Outcomes Accelerator.

The program aims to to create innovative learning product ideas that improve learning outcomes.

Continue reading HEDLINE: Sanoma announces Learning Outcomes Accelerator

Open Education Challenge – European EdTech Incubator in Partnership with the European Commission

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.

Interview: How ed-invent is putting Teachers at the Heart of Edtech

One of the fastest growing verticals in the education space besides MOOCs is probably the edtech incubator / accelerator. Those programs offer training and mentorship, sometimes office space and other perks, in return for some equity in the startup.

Lately, more and more of the established brands in the education space got into this space launching their own programs. Our supporter Macmillan Digital Education, a hybrid between incubator and investor, is one example, Pearson and Kaplan have both launched their initiatives just recently.

One major issue people involved in the space already noticed early on is the lack of educators taking part in these programs. Often they just join events the last day to judge the finished products, but only very few are actually part of startup teams.

When mentoring Startup Weekend London Edu early this year the other mentors and I once again noticed this very problem. Fellow mentor Richard Taylor, a seasoned edtech entrepreneur and angel investor, is now tackling the lack of educators’ involvement by creating a pre-incubator program called ed-invent.

Richard TaylorWhat is your elevator pitch?

We want teachers at the heart of developing successful edtech products & services. Too much stuff doesn’t get used because so many developers ignore the reality of the classroom and many try to plugin an educator at the end of their dev process and not at the start.

ed-invent isn’t trying to make every teacher into an edtech entrepreneur but we want more ‘at the heart of edtech’.

How did the idea come about and why do you think there is a need for the program?

I was looking to do an edtech incubator but raising the cash in the UK was proving problematic (I also think most incubators aside from Imagine K12 aren’t very helpful to edtech start-ups). I was impressed by 4.0 Schools in New Orleans and thought that a pre-incubator like this might be more deliverable.

The first step was helping one of my investments (Night Zookeeper) organise StartUp Weekend EDU London. On the back of the success of StartUp Weekend EDU, Cambridge Assessment (one of the sponsors) approached me about how to take this further and the result is ed-invent.com!

Putting on your angel investor hat, how important is the involvement of educators in edtech products / startups in your mind?

There can be a big difference between successful investments (i.e a good exit) and a product that succeeds in helping teachers improve educational outcomes. For years I was totally focused on the money side and the outcomes wasn’t a metric I even considered.

But when I started focusing my experience on very early stage investing, it soon became apparent that teams with good ideas all had a teacher as part of the core team and ideas based around serious educational issues. As an early stage investor you can get more traction for your money, although perversely later investors who take less risk almost always ask for a bigger package of benefits (and get them).

ed-invent isn’t about building equity stakes in start-ups or building any sort of pipeline for MediaTaylor or Cambridge Assessment/OCR. We are doing this because we think it’s a really important piece of the edtech puzzle that’s missing and which no one else is prepared to fund.

In terms of the JV, it’s essentially my idea with the money coming from OCR (CA’s local exam board). Their motivation is straight forward, as OCR’s CEO Mark Dawe said,

‘As a not-for-profit organisation, we want to support schools as they explore new ways of working, encouraging them to be active not passive consumers of educational technology’.

In edtech there is a huge gap between being a product and a business, but many entrepreneurs confuse the two. A product might be interesting and fit a market need, but by itself is it a sustainable business? More often than not the answer is no.

From an investment perspective this creates a good opportunity to try and rollup products into a larger sustainable business. The sad reality is there are very few (if any) investors in the UK who are looking to do this and even if there were they would then face having to convince several start-ups to merge (an even bigger challenge).

If you compare the landscape when you launched your first venture in edtech to today, do you think it has become easier to create a viable product or service in education?

I fell into education accidentally having been a jackaroo (sort of apprentice cowboy in the Australian outback) and having worked in merchant banking. My first company was successful more by accident than by design and I spent quite a lot of the money from this on tech & edtech start-ups. Several failed and when you are burning your own money you learn a hell of a lot faster than when it belongs to someone else.

Arguably when we did things like Scienceagogo.com and DaisyMaths (that was sponsored by Kraft in Australia) the field was more open, but equally there were far fewer users or interest in tech, so getting attention was a real slog. DaisyMaths showed just how strong the interest in education can be for a major FMCG brand but also how vital it is to have a media partner to help build your brand online (Kraft gave DaisyMaths A$300k in cash but also A$1m in co-op marketing).

Today the tools are better but the market is more crowded. While there are loads of opportunities in B2B & B2C edtech, I am constantly amazed that founders are terrible about competitive intelligence. Every month I get pitched ideas where I know (off the top of my head) there are several similar products in the market already.

Back to ed-invent; how and when should teachers apply?

Teachers need to apply soon as we only have 500 places in our 10×1 day events. These break down as Manchester (150 in Oct.), Birmingham (150 in Nov.) and 200 in London (Dec.).

While many teachers are now on holidays and not back until Sept. the biggest problem we are probably going to face is having more applicants than available spaces! There is no quotas on the types of teachers or schools and spaces will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.

From each of the 10×1 day events we will select a team of 3 to attend the residential pre-incubators in Cambridge in Feb. & April 2014. These 30 teachers (15×2) will work with edtech entrepreneurs for a £2500 cash prize (plus other things inc. internships at edtech companies).