Every tech startup is trying to solve a problem, by creating a unique solution for a niche market in its respective space. This has been the mentality of almost every successful startup turned unicorn by using the praised ‘Lean Startup’ methodology. Recently, however, this approach has been extremely unsuccessful in the Education Technology (EdTech) arena. Overall the Education market is one of the most difficult tech markets to navigate with its low investor confidence, its infamous and bureaucratic 9 month long public school sales cycles, and its stickiness to bad existing software; all of which lead to incredibly high barriers to entry.
As seen by the steadily decreasing deal volume, investors have been becoming increasingly doubtful of EdTech startups. There are several reasons for this. First is the fact that most of the investments made in early stage startups have imploded. Even an esteemed EdTech accelerator fund that will remain unnamed, has pivoted after years of unsuccessful cohorts to other tech industries.
A second reason is that EdTech is by far one of the most treacherous and sticky of all tech ecosystems. It is extremely difficult to get new software into schools: even if your software is significantly better than the competitors’, and even if it is helping schools save money, the schools remain hesitant to switch over due to the hardships of training hundreds of teachers to use a new product, and of having to migrate data over from the old products.
To sum up: The EdTech arena has not been doing so well in terms of innovation. This is because we are still waiting for the next big disruptive unicorn company to monopolize and standardize the education system. The reason that no niche software has been able to disrupt education is because the true problem in EdTech is that there are, in fact, multiple problems, and they are unique to each school.
We are in the age of over-fragmentation, and the solution is Integration. Now is the time to consolidate and create efficiency in large markets, while reducing clutter and cost for consumers. We have chosen to focus on the Education market because we wanted to make a positive impact on the world, and believe that our current system is in dire need of revamping.
The picture above represents the newest and best way to categorize all of the different types of EdTech companies as created by Navitas, and it illustrates how large EdTech truly is. It can be divided into 8 main categories and 26 sub categories, and these are just some of the companies in the EdTech markets. Just imagine trying to balance a very limited school budget over all these categories to efficiently run your school: It’s impossible.The EdTech market is incredibly large, and even with the recent decline in industry confidence, there was a combined total of over $50B in investments over the past few years, with an expected worth estimated over $10 trillion in the coming years.
Not only is it impossible to choose the best software for school systems to use (or any tech system), it is also incredibly expensive. There have been other companies catching on to this trend. One attempt at a solution to the fragmentation has been ‘Super Apps’. As the name suggests, a Super App allows users to access a number of features that would typically only be available through multiple stand-alone native apps. The Term SuperApp became known thanks to the Chinese software Wechat during the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. WeChat is the equivalent of a Swiss army knife for apps combining many functions into one single app. The benefits are obvious to users: They can translate messages into multiple languages, talk on the phone, share pictures, pay for various services and order a taxi all through just one application.
Similar to ‘Super Apps’ are ‘Integrated Tech Environments’ – A term coined by the Integrate team. A ‘Super App’ is one application that has a tremendous amount of functionality sets, not linked to a particular industry (for example, Facebook’s ability to allow users to play videogames or exchange money – which are not necessarily in the social media category), while ‘Integrated Tech’ is a ‘Super App’ focused on providing all the possible functionality in a particular environment without the need for supplementation. Integrated Tech must be an all-in-one solution for its environment, with or without the aid of third party integrations. For example, if an EdTech software is to be considered ‘Integrated EdTech’, it would have to encompass all of the following aspects of the school environment: Create, Manage, Discover, Connect, Experience, Learn, Credential, and Advance.
Imagine teachers and students only having to learn one software that streamlines data and provides all needed functionality seamlessly for the price of one software. As tech industries continue to become increasingly fragmented, it is clear that these ‘Integrated Tech Environments’ are our future.
By Maxwell Witt