EdTech Innovator Award BETT

Edtech Innovator Award at BETT – An Interview with Edward Baker of Edmix

Winter time is a very edtech conference heavy period of the year. Just when you have left Online Educa in Berlin you can pack your bags and leave for the annual BETT Show in London.

Next year (next month) will be particularly exciting for me as EDUKWEST has partnered with Edmix, a leading education technology community in the UK. EDUKWEST will not only cover the startups at this year’s EdTech Pavillon but I will also give an outlook on what we at EDUKWEST see as the emerging education trends for 2014.

Besides giving 40 edtech startups exposure in the EdTech Pavillon at on one of the biggest global education trade shows, Edmix will host the EdTech Innovator Award, a pitch competition with a £10.000 price pot in-kind value support by Pearson, Leaf Investments and Taylor Wessing.

To give you a better idea of what is happening in London’s edtech scene, what role Edmix plays and what you can expect from the BETT Show in January, here is an interview with Edward Baker, the founder of Edmix.

KW: Edward, you are a very active member of the UK edtech community and involved in many interesting projects. How does the edtech landscape in the UK, especially in London, look like these days?

Ed Baker EdmixEB: London, and the UK, has always been a fantastic place to run an education technology business; from Pearson to Promethean, British entrepreneurs have always looked to education as a place to innovate. In the last few years, our humble community, Edmix.com, has grown from a monthly meetup in a local pub to a groundswell of 600 individuals, start-ups and established companies aiming to disrupt this $4.3T education market. Our buoyant community is now based in ‘Tech City’, an area adjacent to the City of London – the financial capital of Europe) attracting prominent industry experts, and now, I’m pleased to say, the investor community. It’s only in the last year we’ve witnessed a gear-change in the number of investors paying closer attention to edtech – coming down to our events to meet talent and engage entrepreneurs.

As someone who works in the domestic UK tech sector, but observes the rapid growth of edtech internationally (Edward ran the first UK early-stage edtech trade mission to the ISTE, in Texas in June), I’ve had many conversations with friends who run edtech businesses in other countries – trying to define which city is the best to startup up an edtech business? While I can comfortably identify the top five cities – from the number of edtech companies based there (Washington DC, Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Berlin and London) – I can only speak on the merits of London!

The UK governmental lens now shines firmly on education technology and supports fantastic edtech initiatives like the Innovate competition from the Technology Strategy Board, and dedicated edtech investors, such as Leaf Investments (based in Dublin) are hugely active in the UK – alongside great new accelerators like Emerge Venture Lab. It would also be remiss of me not to mentioned fantastic larger institutionals like Pearson, who are as supportive as they are acquisitive. (Really important in new markets!)

The innovation and investment landscape is as fast moving as say San Francisco but London sits between the US and Europe and therefore makes for a sensible place to base operations. Engaging UK Schools and the UK Key Stage curriculum has similar challenges to engaging the K-12, but we’ve found UK educators wholly supportive of innovation and embracing student digital futures.

London has one final thing over other cities: it’s host to the world’s largest education technology conference – the BETT Show, which is hosted not far from Tech City, in East London. Each January, 40,000 education professionals from all over the world descend on this huge event! This year, Edmix is returning to the BETT Show, proud to be hosting a huge EDTECH PAVILION – helping startups and early stage SMEs to economically get to this huge audience and grow their business! If you are interested in getting to BETT please get in touch with us!

KW: Before we come to edmix, could you give us a quick overview about your other edtech ventures: Techmix Magazine and the Digital Summer Camp and what these aim at.

EB: I could talk a lot here, so am just going to focus on my current business which is Digital Skills Agency, that runs Edmix and Techmix

As an edtech entrepreneur, I’ve been developing online learning tools and resources for the past 10 years. Our company, Digital Skills Agency, runs Edmix – our monthly community of edtech entrepreneurs and helping them engage the market and grow their business, and Techmix, which supports young people learning digital skills and exploring digital careers. We host a large annual event called Digital Summer Camp, smack-bang in the centre of Tech City each July for around 10,000 schools and students.

KW: When and why did you come up with the concept for Edmix, what impact does it have on the edtech community?

EB: I started Edmix as there was was no similar community offering the kind of support I needed to build tech in education. Three years ago, I thought that if I brought together like-minded people, then we would have the opportunity to share best practice, war-stories and learn about the market (what law firms worked pro-bono at the outset, who were the bloggers to outreach to, what investors looked upon edtech as a viable sector…).

What consolidated this thinking was a business trip to San Francisco where, at Stanford D-School, I met the guys from Imagine K-12 and was asked by the Kauffman Foundation to mentor at the first edtech-focused Startup Weekend (a weekend edtech hackathon). Startup Weekend is an incredibly powerful vehicle to help people develop business ideas – and so I brought the format over to the UK and hosted the education vertical for a couple of years – while hosting hack days at events like Learning Without Frontiers.

We plan to grow Edmix over the next year with support of the community, helping earlier stage companies get to market. Our last event did exactly that – an A-Z of EdTech Essentials.

KW: I am very excited that Edmix and EDUKWEST have teamed up for next year’s BETT Show in London. What can people expect from the Edtech Pavillon?

EB: Each year at the BETT Show on the EDTECH PAVILION we host a fantastic edtech pitching competition, called Edtech Innovator Award! This is an opportunity for start-ups and early stage SME’s to present their business to some of the best judges in the business, and a warm crowd of 300 passionate edtech enthusiasts – at the world’s biggest edtech conference – and win £10,000 (in-kind support)!

It’s a real honour for us that EDUKWEST is involved with Edtech Innovator Award at BETT this year!

If EDUKWEST readers would like to enter their edtech business into the competition, please take a look here.

KW: What excites you about education technology and makes you get up every morning?

EB: I’m passionate about developing products where innovation has benefit and meaning. There’s nothing better than hearing from a user how one of your tech products has helped them progress in their life/career.

KW: What comes next for Edmix and Edward Baker?

We’re now super busy growing Techmix magazine, and focusing our energies towards Digital Summer Camp in July next year!

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at KirstenWinkler.com.