Zynga.org NewSchools Venture Fund

Zynga.org and NewSchools Venture Fund to launch Edtech Game Accelerator

Zynga.org NewSchools Venture Fund

Zynga’s non-profit arm Zynga.org announced that it will commit $1 million for the first year in a new edtech accelerator in partnership with NewSchools Venture Fund. The accelerator is going to be

“… focused on enhancing the quality and reach of learning games and apps designed to improve education outcomes.”

Aside from the monetary aspect Zynga is also going to provide access to the Zynga team, sharing their expertise in game design, testing, analytics, product marketing and distribution.

“We want to help entrepreneurs create high quality, scalable learning games that will enhance learning experiences for all 21stcentury students.”

said Ken Weber, Executive Director, Zynga.org.

The first cohort, taking place in summer 2013, consists of three edtech startups, namely Kidaptive, LocoMotiveLabs and Motion Math. Also, Edmodo is going to join the first cohort as charter partner.

There are a couple of interesting angles in this partnership to talk about. First of all, the parent company Zynga has been in a downward spiral over the past months, losing key executives, market share and value at the stock exchange. The startup that used to be a serious threat to established game giants like EA seems to be in search of new lucrative markets aside the shrinking revenue from Facebook and mobile games.

Hence partnering with NewSchools through the non-profit Zynga.org might be a sign that educational games are considered to be a potentially interesting market.

For edtech startups in the space the access to the Zynga team could help them to overcome one of the major obstacles: finding a viable business model. I am not sure if Zynga can add much to the marketing and distribution aspect, especially towards educators but that part should be provided by NewSchools, similar to what imagine K12 offers their incubated startups.

Farbood Nivi, founder of Grockit / Learnist stated in our interview that

The problem in the space right now is that there has been such an effort to turn the teacher into an entrepreneur. I think the effort should have been put in getting these teacher entrepreneurs to partner with business entrepreneurs.

And not because they are incapable of any aspect of the business, but there is too much work to do and that an educator entrepreneur should probably be focused on the product and learning aspect of the organization and the partner should be focused on the business aspect of it, and the whole organization is more likely to succeed I think in this way. Kind of this founder dating style. I’d like to see a lot more of that.

I think, this new accelerator is going in that direction.

However, one thing we also have to keep in mind, Zynga has a certain reputation of copying games when they cannot acquire the competing startup. Some of those allegations even went to court.

Playing the devil’s advocate here, being an investor in promising edtech startups in the gaming space might also give Zynga access to intelligence like user numbers and other interesting data points. Given the somewhat dubious reputation Zynga has earned for itself over the years in the game development community it is something I would think twice about before entering the accelerator program.

Another aspect to the educational game market which is largely driven by parents buying apps for early childhood learning is that there are first voices calling for a more moderate approach of using technology in early childhood education as toddlers seem to get addicted to their devices pretty heavily. Alicia Chang wrote about her concerns here on EDUKWEST almost two years ago, already.

Add pseudo-scientific claims to the mix and you have the ingredients for a parent backlash on educational games and devices. I guess, we’ll see how it all plays out eventually.

Source: Globe News Wire

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