The Versari Hub in Dublin, Ireland was officially opened on March 13 2014 and aims to provide early-stage learning technology companies with facilities.
It is technically not a pure incubator or accelerator as Versari Partners invests in IT and education technology companies through their exclusive investment partner Leaf Investments and also offers additional services to the startups.
To begin with a definition of early-stage, for the Versari Hub don’t take this term as in “incubator early-stage”. A first look at the companies reveals that some of them have been around for a number of years, and I wouldn’t necessarily call them early-stage or even startups anymore. That said, early-stage certainly is an elastic term.
So let’s take a closer look at the edtech startups in this first Irish learning technologies hub.
BlikBook is a platform for students and lecturers in higher education to interact around the content, ask questions, share articles, start discussions etc.
It has mobile and desktop versions and also plays the card of providing analytics features. Definitely a plus point is the possible integration with other Virtual Learning Environments (VLE = LMS). BlikBook claims to be used in over 100 universities across 15 countries.
Although the startup was founded in 2010 in the UK, with their 2013 €1 million Seed Round the team relocated to Ireland. BlikBook has raised a total of €1.3 million ($1.8M) in Seed Funding.
Generally speaking, the space is fairly attractive although traditionally also highly competitive. The competition is likely to increase even more now Instructure Canvas opened their London office and puts some serious effort into grabbing share in the UK market as EDUKWEST reported.
Adaptemy is a math education startup founded in 2013 that combines live online video teaching with adaptive elements such as a personalized learning path. It targets both the self-learner who wants to prepare for an exam but also has a solution for schools.
The test prep market has been and will continue to be a solid vertical within edtech. There are always students (parents) who put in the extra effort (money) to possibly having an edge over fellow students.
US startups with a similar model, Magoosh comes to mind here, have attracted Venture investment and were able to build a business for themselves. Also, there is no Khan Academy / College Board alliance for Europe that would provide exam preparation for free.
VSware is a cloud and mobile based school administration platform, also referred to as a MIS or management information system, for Primary and Post Primary schools. According to the press release close to 20% of Irish Post Primary Schools have joined the platform.
What I have read from teachers in Ireland whose schools are using the VSware, the tenor is that they are all generally happy with how the pilots worked out in their respective schools. Some who have been using the MIS for two years now, stated that it needs to mature – which is normal, at least understandable, when you use the product of a young company.
The question about VSware I ask myself is whether this is a product that specifically responds to the needs of Irish schools. Will it be able to grab share in other markets remains to be seen.
The competition is strong in this vertical; US startup Clever raised a $10.3 million Series A. However, I see possibilities in other European markets.
StoryToys makes educational apps aimed at young learners and combines learning with storytelling and gamification elements. The stories are presented in a simulation of a traditional pop-up book.
Founded in 2008 the companies currently has 25 titles available on The App Store, Google Play and Amazon. StoryToys Goodnight Mo hit no. 1 in US App Store book charts and more than 40 other countries.
At the time CEO Barry O’Neill said “We are delighted and proud that Goodnight Mo has proven such a hit with parents and children around the world,” “Its success demonstrates that the StoryToys team can produce original content to compete with the biggest names in children’s entertainment.”
StoryToys raised a total of $2.2 million in two Seed Rounds (2011 and 2013).
Health education and increasingly medical and patient education is a growing vertical.
Founded in 2010 SureWash combines e-learning with video measurement technology to innovate in the field of hand hygiene training. According to the company’s website the technology was developed in Trinity College Dublin over a period of eight years.
A trial resulted in hand hygiene rates per patient day increased by 156% and compliance with technique increased 703%. The company has received investment in excess of €1.1m, including €500k from Leaf Investments.
EmpowerTheUser is a SaaS solution, spun out of Trinity College Dublin in 2010, that offers companies a talent development platform through adaptive role play simulations.
ETU’s technology includes an adaptive simulator and provides clients with a solution for personalized performance learning and development as well as business intelligence to continuously monitor and manage progress.
ETU has clients in the US and across Europe. The team raised more than €500K ($685,000) from Leaf Investments in 2012 and wants to use the money to increase sales.
Corporate training solutions have been popular for quite a while now, may it be a language learning/training solution, video learning or training and assessment in a virtual environment.
ETU reminds me of Alto Game’s presentation at BETT 2014 and also some of the ideas, projects I heard about at Online Educa 2013 in Berlin.
Alan Maguire from Versari Partners also joined us for episode 7 of our Friday news show On the Ed and gives some more insight into some of the above startups and the competitive landscape in the edtech market.
Picture via CityWallpaper.org