The Renaissance Network (TRN) kicked off 2020 by attending Bett 2020 in London, UK and LearnLaunch 2020 Across Boundaries in Boston, MA.
Touted as the world’s largest Education Technology conference, Bett 2020 is an annual four-day event held in mid-January; the show is attended by 34,000 education professionals and comprised of 800 plus global exhibitors, including 103 new EdTech companies seeking to kickoff of their 2020 go-to-market plan. A week later in the heart of the thriving Boston education ecosystem, LearnLaunch 2020 offers 150 bold speakers to an audience of educators, disrupters, researchers and investors.
The TRN team has chosen key takeaways from both events:
Bett: A Global EdTech Go-To-Market Conference
Supporting Student Wellbeing (Themes Powering Bett 2020)
The Bett team highlighted that 90% of UK teachers have seen an increase in the number of students showing low-mood, anxiety, stress and depression. This reflected a movement to products and services where student impact goes beyond academic achievement to support “wellbeing.” Further, Henry Patten, CEO of GoBubble, brought up the concept of “digital wellbeing” and stressed the importance of “being mindful of our usage and approach to digital mediums…to support our mental and physical health.” More and more schools seeking blended solutions to improve outcomes find themselves on this frontline of digital safety and wellbeing. For those attendees targeting the mental and physical health of students and teachers, Bett provided an inspiring selection of case studies, classroom initiatives and vendor solutions designed to improve in-school and student wellness.
Robots on the Rise?
Robotics were once again highly visible at Bett 2020 with 76 Robotics companies exhibiting, including LEGO Education, iRobot and Sphero. International consumer robotics leader iRobot, who recently expanded their educational offering with the acquisition of Root Robotics, was a first-time attendee to the event. All robotics providers were stressing their unique impact on the education space but varied widely on approaches to user experience, delivering software, and developing coding abilities. Some relied on a proprietary and closed experience, others offered a freemium model, while some allow third-party applications and even hackability. As with AR, VR and AI, robotics are a continued source of engagement, innovation, and market growth in EdTech.
US and EU New Market Entry
Growing education companies highlighted new market entry as a vehicle to scale in 2020. While discussions often centered around whether direct hiring or partnering with a third party is the optimal go-to-market approach, the differences between entering the EU and US markets were cited as key challenges for companies who had not yet made the jump across the pond. The European market possesses a level of complexity due to 44 unique countries, varied employment laws and diverse Education market money flow. Recruiting specifically is challenged by the need for native language expertise as well as finding hires who speak a company Headquarter’s language. The US market seems to offer a more straightforward entry regarding employment due to common labor laws and languages, however, the complication of 50 states is daunting with distinct standards, funding access, and decision hierarchies adding to difficulties for a non-US entrant.
LearnLaunch 2020: An Education Innovation Event
The divide between highschool, college and careers
From a Future of Work showcase that included 35 presenting education organizations to the fact that nine individual breakout sessions targeted workforce preparedness, LearnLaunch 2020 was dominated by discussions on preparing individuals for the careers of today and tomorrow. The common theme: high schools are not adequately preparing students for college, colleges are not setting many young people up for success in relevant employment options and post graduate options for middle-skill training are subsequently more and more important. Clearly career readiness and “in-vocation” products and services are occupying a growing and more central space in EdTech.
Changing economies of established education systems
From the $250 textbook of the 2010’s and the $40 thousand average all-in annual cost of four-year college programs (NCES), students have found it increasingly difficult to afford completion to a degree. A growing number of speakers and vendors at the Boston event were focused on affordable, higher ROI and more relevant education services, products and options. What would today’s college student say to reducing the time of a bachelor’s to just two and a half years and only paying $17 thousand for the entire experience? Western Governor’s University (WGU) offers just that with an online only focus on preparing grads for new, relevant jobs. Others including Penn Foster’s CEO Frank Britt feel this new economy works both ways stating at LearnLaunch, “we do better if students do better. So, purpose and profit are intertwined.”
Alternatives to Traditional Education Delivery
Online, blended, project-based, year-round and other factors allow for alternative school formats and approaches. This year at LearnLaunch, the term “disruption” was more prevalent than in past events, with innovators touting not alternative schools, but outright alternatives to school. One such approach leverages the method to homeschool called “unschooling” in which the full education experience is led by the student. Additionally, new entrant and event attendee Unschool.school, Inc proposes to blow up the model through an education marketplace for homeschooling and out of school education. Unschool.school is a new learning platform that boldly leverages the sharing economy, and we predict the options for students and parents will continue to be disrupted with other innovative EdTech entrants.
Moving to Growth Phase in Education Firms Requires a Functional Upgrade
2019 was clearly a year of maturity for certain EdTech firms with whom we met at LearnLaunch. In organizations that ranged from two to five years old, CEOs, Presidents and Founders all said, “I currently drive business development.” Most were describing their deep organizational need for the next step in their growth plans: a sales leader and a proper sales organization, especially a function that could sell into educational institutions from early learning to K-12 to higher-ed. This view spanned across companies that relied on inbound or outbound sales sourcing; they simply found that a business development function led out of the company leaders was not sustainable as the company evolved.
If you find that the views above spring boarded your own thoughts on either conference, please leave a comment or connect with TRN via our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From London’s Bett 2020 to Boston’s LearnLaunch 2020, we feel privileged to speak and partner with global leaders in Education and Technology. We hope to see you at San Diego’s ASU GSV on March 30th.