Jamal Merritt on the 2018 Investors & Channels Summit
On September 27th, edtech entrepreneurs, investors, and channel partners met at the Hyatt hotel on Boston harbor to discuss their needs and opportunities. This was a unique opportunity for innovative edtech leaders to not only share and cultivate their ideas, but to also gain valuable insight into the fundraising profile for the industry. Edtech startups from around the world took the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors and industry experts, all with one central question in mind:
How do early edtech startups secure funding and grow their business to the next level?
The 2018 Investors & Channels Summit, produced by LearnLaunch Accelerator and the EdMarket Association, served as a unique opportunity for edtech startups to improve their sales and promote their brand. From sales pitch presentations to panel sessions and investor speed dating, a lot happened during the Investors & Channels Summit. I compiled a list of 5 things I learned about the edtech space during this two-day event:
- The best sales pitches are ones that are clear, concise, and engaging to the audience. The speakers who garnered the best response from the audience were those who clearly presented the problem their technology was attempting to solve, and how it would do so. One of my favorite sales pitches was from SmartTrack, a startup that provides a way for large low-income schools to track their inventory. Early in his presentation, CEO Nate Bronstein showed us a news article of a school in Philadelphia that had lost track of millions of dollars of school supplies due to an inefficient tracking system. This real-world example was more effective in connecting me to the specific issue his product was trying to solve than just a chart or graph could have done on its own.
- There is no “secret” ingredient or path to investor funding. According to MassVentures’ Charlie Hipwood, entrepreneurs need to have three things in place when approaching a potential investor: a method of measuring whatever it is they are doing, some proof that what they are doing is effective and worthwhile, and a big vision about what you can do beyond the classroom. Investors support the issues that are closest to their hearts and have a sustainable and actionable plan for future growth.
- There are a ton of approaches that can be taken to improve education. The definition of edtech is constantly evolving and expanding. People are constantly coming up with new ideas to help both students and learners succeed that fundamentally change the way we think about the field. I got the opportunity to see some of these unique approaches, such as an educational animation app that allows students to animate objects and drawings, a headset that monitors cognitive activity during the learning process, and a subscription-based company that mails engineering projects to your home every month. These startups are among some of the many unique ideas that leaders in the edtech space are coming up with to improve education for both students and learners.
- Edtech start-up leaders come from a variety of backgrounds. Not every edtech CEO who came to the summit was an experienced entrepreneur or technology professional. Some came from previous backgrounds as teachers, parents, or other professions. What they all had in common was the insight to see a problem in our education system that needed to be addressed, and the drive and innovation to build a sustainable solution.
- Education technology is not only changing the way students learn, but also the way educators teach as well. Chalk Talk is one of the edtech startups that are changing the way teachers teach by equipping educators with blended learning models and personalized lesson plans. Workforce productivity tools are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, helping teachers to focus more on actual teaching and less time on prep-work.
So what’s next? Now that the Investors & Channels Summit is over, the dialogue on the quickly adapting and changing nature of the edtech space continues. If you want to stay up to date on the most current trends in education technology, be sure to check out the LearnLaunch events page for our upcoming events!
Jamal Merritt is an intern at LearnLaunch Institute