Business ideas for 2016: Edtech

A £45bn industry with its own government body, it's the sector every investor wants a piece of. Find out why you should become part of the edtech age...

The London Co-Investment Fund, AngelLab, Index Ventures, DC Thomson Ventures, Scottish Enterprise; think of any high-profile investment fund and they will most likely have made an investment in the education technology (edtech) space recently.

Why? Well, according to research from London & Partners, edtech is one of the fastest growing tech sectors in Britain and is worth £45bn globally; a number set to reach a staggering £129bn by 2020.

Much like the UK’s tech ‘darling’ fintech, edtech is taking off in the UK and there are now over 1,000 start-ups across the country – over 200 in London alone – attempting to take a share of the e-learning market.

And it’s a trend which the government has recognised too. In October 2015, Boris Johnson announced the launch of EdTech UK; a strategic body to promote and encourage the growth of Britain’s edtech sector. As Ian Fordham, CEO of EdTech UK, commented at the time:

“Edtech has come of age. The UK is home to some of the world’s leading schools, colleges, universities and education businesses.”

Starting an edtech company: Why it’s a good business idea

Given that there are over 1,000 edtech businesses in the UK currently, you might question the validity of edtech as a business opportunity for 2016. But, while the industry is growing, there are still definite gaps in the market for edtech start-ups with a niche focus.

Just last week at the inaugural EdTech Forum -headed by Baroness Martha Lane Fox, Henry Lane-Fox, Brent Hoberman and Jim Meyerle – the launch of the Founders Factory was announced; a corporate-backed accelerator and incubator programme which has dedicated its first cohort to “the next big things in edtech”.

In the latest UK Education Market Opportunity Report, it suggested that demand for edtech is only going to increase as schools and colleges face “enormous” pressure to adjust their ways of teaching and approaches to education for “today’s learners and tomorrow’s”. The report stated that “there is clear evidence that schools continue to seek the best technology, educational content, and resources”.

The sheer number of edtech start-ups which have secured funding recently also suggests that the market is still evolving. In the last 12 months alone, we’ve seen edtech start-ups such as Gojimo, Digital Assess, GeckoLabs, Fuse Universal, RefME, and Technology Will Save Us raise close to $20m.

A panellist at the edtech forum noted that “Edtech has [now] become a functioning part of the venture capital (VC) and investment space” and shows no signs of slowing down.

Edtech business opportunities

Whether it’s for revision purposes, making classroom learning more fun (take inspiration from Norwegian start-up Kahoot!), or to support learning in the workplace, there are a diverse number of edtech prospects to consider.

The app market has proved a big ‘win’ for edtech start-ups of late, particularly those that target students such as RefME and Gojimo. RefME is a free referencing tool aimed at university students which generates automatic citations in over 7,500 styles. Launched in 2014, it achieved faster growth than social media giant Twitter in its first year with over 800,000 users.

Edtech mobile app company Gojimo has achieved similar success. Founded by Forbes’ 30 under 30 young entrepreneur George Burgess, the start-up offers a range of revision apps with over 180,000 quiz questions for students preparing for GCSE, A-Level, 11+, 13+, and the International Baccalaureate. An alleged 20% of UK students used the app in peak revision season in May 2015.

Alternatively, you could look at creating an edtech business targeted at younger learners and those who aren’t yet school age. For instance, London start-up Dream Learners has created an animated app which connects children aged three to eight to learning content, optimised for bedtimes.

Or you could target teachers. For example, you could create a niche social network that would bring teachers together to share their teaching styles and methodology. Find out how to start a niche social network here.

There is also an opportunity for businesses to disrupt the tutoring market. Young Gun-founded start-up Bright Young Things recently launched cloud-based app TutorCruncher which provides management, planning, and timetabling for busy tutors and achieved £50,000 turnover in a few months of launching.

Insider opinion

George Burgess, founder and CEO of Gojimo, believes “the global education sector is worth trillions of dollars”.

He added: “Edtech is one of the few sectors which remains largely untouched by digital disruption. Ask any venture capital firm today and they’ll tell you they’re actively seeking edtech opportunities.

“But where to begin? Education is a massive industry which spans endless stakeholders – where should you look to build a business? Try to find a single pain point which you think you can solve. At Gojimo we chose to disrupt the revision industry. It didn’t make sense to us that the two most popular ways to revise are still physical books and past papers. We brought revision resources to the mobile phone and now one in five GCSE and A Level students use the Gojimo app.

“While Gojimo makes revision more convenient and interactive, our friends at ShowMyHomework make homework management easier; RefMe makes citations and bibliographies easier to generate; and BridgeU makes the university application process more intelligent and easier to navigate. There are plenty of other areas of the education system that need fixing and modernising – so pick one and get started!”

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