With so many educational technology startup companies (EdTechs) out there, it is sometimes hard to identify exactly what problem they are solving within the vast educational ecosystem.
In this blog post I will take a look at all of the EdTech startup companies (as of January 2016) and organize them in a way in which you and I can better understand what category of problem do they solve and in what space do they operate (higher ed, K to 12 etc.).
To do that, I have put together the following map of all EdTech Startup Companies;
Now, if you’re wondering how this could be useful to you. Don’t worry, we will start by answering that question.
Why I Made this Map of all Edtech Startup Companies
When I was working on SharpScholar, my EdTech startup (also included in the map above), I found myself increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of EdTech startup companies out there. As an early-stage EdTech entrepreneur I wanted to answer some critical questions. Questions such as;
- Which area or problem within the educational ecosystem is most heavily funded?
- Where are most of the educational technology companies concentrated?
- What is the average age of a current Edtech company?
- Who are my direct and in-direct competitors?
If you are a teacher, student, current, or aspiring EdTech entrepreneur this visualization would be of interest to you. I only hope I had done this earlier to better understand my competitive landscape and understand my startup strategy.
Note: this only includes startup companies and not the big guys such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple who are formidable players in this field. I encourage you to consider their work and competitive advantages as well.
Categories of Problems within the Educational Ecosystem
You can call them problems, opportunities, or value propositions – but regardless – these are the themes that EdTech startup companies define as their vision and mission for existence.
These categories of problems are visible across all segments – K to 12, higher education etc.
The edtech startup categories in the map are as follows;
- Online Enablers
- Consumer Focused
- Learning Management Systems (LMSs)
- Process Innovation
- K-12 or Higher Educational Supplemental
- Virtual Schools
- Classroom Technology or Infrastructure
- Data Platforms
- Language Learning
Let’s define each of them for better understanding;
These are companies who are solely focused on “globalization of schools”. In other words, they are helping expand the four walls of traditional brick-and-mortar schools by helping them get customers (students) outside their city, municipality, or physical boundaries which may include internatoinal students. Think of it as businesses going global, these startup companies are helping them do the same.
These are startup companies focused on solving educational needs of the mass consumers (i-e students). They supply on demand lectures mostly in video formats across all kinds of subject matters. Many of them partner with enterprises to provide professional development learning opportunities for the workforce. Content is something they compete on and produce.
Learning Management Systems
These EdTech startup companies are focused on creating a robust operating system for universities that allows them to manage communications between their stakeholders – namely students and teachers. More specifically, it allows the teachers to have a repository to upload learning materials, post grades, etc. Their bases of competition is market leadership and ability to upsell additional features of their software platform.
Process innovation focused EdTech startup companies can be broken down into the ones that promote new pedagogy, training services, applied outcome based learning, innovative study materials, and blended learning intiatives.
Many of these edtech companies are focused schools for certain kind of career skills. For example, GA (General Academy) focused on hands-on training of current high-demand technology sector skills of development, design, product management etc.
K-12 and Higher Ed Supplemental
These EdTech startup companies are focused on creating learning materials to be used for teaching and consumption. They are solving the content creation, distribution, and consumption problem for schools ranging from K-12 to Higher Ed and beyond.
There are a few niche players within virtual schools EdTech category that are solely focused on bringing the day-to-day school online. Some of them are focusing on delivering such education to areas that don’t have access (or enough demand) to schools or quality curriculum.
Classroom Technology Infrastructure
This is one of the most populated category in which most EdTech startups are (knowingly and unknowingly). These startups and their products are closest to the day-to-day interaction between students and teachers and attempt to make that better through their products.
My startup, SharpScholar, also falls under this category. Furthermore, a good chunk of very niche “non-startup” companies also exist here. These are company started by groups such as Eric Mazur– learning catalytics (acquired by Pearson) and their latest, Perusall.
These data focused EdTech startup companies aim to better make sense of the enormous data sitting in the servers of educational institutions. They specialize in revenue optimization and cost reduction use cases with their data platforms. The stakeholders invovled with these startups are usually IT administration or upper management.
As the name may suggest, these language learning EdTech startup companies are focused on delivering innovative ways for humans to speak more than one language. The new startups seem to be more focused on peer-to-peer and mobile learning to deliver “bite-sized” learning for people on the go.
The massive online open source course were projected to make a bigger dent then they have so far. These educational startup companies usually partner with universities to deliver their courses online for free or for a price. Furthermore, they find ways to monetize the content from the student (certification, tutoring etc).
The adaptive learning EdTech startup companies are focused on solving just-in-time or personalized teaching for students. It will “adapt” to the learner profile and suggest materials are exercise accordingly.
These EdTech startup companies are focused on integrating the way that the learning materials – particularly books – are distributed or sold. They are doing so by creating alternative market to buy and sell, rental, or even newer medium of distribution.
Where to go from this map?
I hope you use the above information as a starting point to research deeper into the existing startups, their customer, value propositions etc to better make decisions for your venture or idea. I hope to do a blog post later down the road about more detailed evaluation of each category – inaddition to this high-level overview.
I hope that was helpful for you. In addition to the above, I personally consulted the following resources when articulating the positioning and playing ground for my venture;