Last week I attended a VentureOut Edtech Pitch Night, the culminating event of a one-week boot camp for edtech founders. Entrepreneurs gave a two-minute pitch of their products to a panel of four investors and received feedback on how they might improve their sell.
The bulk of attendees were associates at venture capitalist firms looking for companies in which to invest. Based on my conversations with them, their two key criteria were:
- The potential for scalability to Chinese and Indian markets.
- The application of high-tech. Bonus points for artificial intelligence, it seems, as that was mentioned at least once in every conversation I had with an investor.
Yet, the product most lauded by the investor panel actually had nothing to do with "high-tech" at all — mcSquares, a company that is quickly raking in the dough, has done so by turning your standard dry-erase board into much smaller dry-erase boards.
As one member of the investor panel put it, “It almost makes me angry how simple it is.”
It was worthwhile to learn the factors that go into determining what products ultimately make it into the classroom and how edtech startups are working to distinguish themselves in the market.
Some questions that came up for me were:
- An investor’s priority — “more AI” — is not necessarily an educator’s priority. What distance is there between those who make and sell edtech and those who actually have to use it?
- What other criteria should be prioritized when curating educational tools and platforms?
If you’re interested in learning more about the startups that pitched that night, go here. You can also look up #VentureOutEdTech on Twitter for snapshots of the event.