My role as CEO and Chairman of Digital Assess has given me a rather interesting insight into both sides of the dynamic in terms of value creation in education technology that encompasses both developing the business growth plans as well as developing investment thesis. I have been fortunate to sit on both sides of the investment table, so to speak, as a venture partner at an Ed Tech accelerator in London, as an angel investor in skills / vocational assessment businesses and most recently as a CEO in a growing business.
Over the coming few weeks I plan to share my thoughts on the key differentiators in this sector and the spectrum of opportunities that the Ed Tech sector brings compared to other sectors in the context of really understanding the value creation dynamics. All these views, be they good, bad, boring or controversial are of course, my personal thoughts.
So here goes….
- Content vs Technology
Before I start to spout my experiential wisdom here, lets bear in mind that I am talking about the early stage ecosystem.
As a parent, I can only applaud those that create exceptional and engaging content to push education forward; but the reality of the early stage scene is that it is littered with remnants of great content businesses. New ways to deliver, new ways to express, new ways to interact and in some cases some genuinely new content. But content depreciates, content ages, it is rarely curriculum agnostic, and it is rarely geographically mobile. To further compound the problem, it is always under threat from (my best saying coming up) gimmicky start ups- two kids from Palo Alto or Bangalore that want to give it away for free.
Strong technology however has a much better chance of being agnostic to device, content, curriculum, geography etc. enhancing its staying power. And to boot, the inherent ability of non-content Ed Tech makes it truly scalable and able to support educational delivery or its ecosystem across the globe.
So clarity is required on where the true value lies. Teams that create content are likely not to be those that can build robust tech platforms; conversely strong technology teams may lack the creativity to build exceptional content. Teams that strive to foster both under the same roof may find challenges beyond that just of core competencies.
Content businesses have the attributes of either publishing or curating. In both extremes the development and maintenance of Intellectual property is as key as the channels to market. Where as a technology centric business is inevitably focused on product disciplines and a well thought through road map. In either case a unique set of skills are required, clear organisational structures and go to market strategies.
In my next post I will discuss how the sector educations measures up to technology as value creators.
Picture by Chris Devers via Flickr