The Renaissance Network (TRN) recently had a virtual sit down with Australia based Maria Spies, Managing Director and Co-Founder of HolonIQ, an unrivalled global intelligence platform that evaluates and helps predict the future of education. Considering the profound changes occurring in the intersection of education and technology, Maria agreed to an open dialogue with Lisa Sacchetti, CEO and Founder of TRN.
The conversation was so engaging that we covered it in two articles. Part one covers EdTech industry predictions in the face of a pandemic, hiring insights, investment momentum and catalysts for innovation. Part two, to be released later, will address fundamental industry changes, growth segments, advice to leaders and critical blind spots.
Lisa: How does HolonIQ view investment trends in Education and Technology?
Maria: Activity in the market has not slowed down. In March we saw the largest ever EdTech venture capital investment, a $1 billion round. Companies that were thinking about an IPO are changing direction based on market uncertainty, but investors still want to get their money out there. They are putting it into capital, and the EdTech industry is as busy as it has ever been.
A key trend is variances in markets, especially geographical markets with different education systems. The recipient of the $1B round was Yuanfudao, a China-based after-school online tutoring platform. Digital tutoring has been growing for 10-15 years, especially in China. Companies have been experimenting more freely with new pedagogies and technologies in the after-school space because the after-school space is non-accredited. Large after-school tutoring companies are proving how their solutions can now be embedded into formal accredited education systems.
The demand seen in the beginning of this trend is now accelerated by COVID-19. These massive rounds of investments show that confidence in models in one part of the sector can be applied in another part of the sector. Formal K-12 schooling is the biggest segment of Education delivering more than 50% of all learning around the world in both Eastern and Western countries. Considering the 260 million kids today who are not even in school, think what this new technology can provide for them.
Lisa: HolonIQ conducted an industry wide survey right at the start of the COVID-19 scenario. What did you discover?
Maria: Every six months in March and September, we send our global panel a survey to collect their thoughts on current conditions and the future. This March, we included a few questions about COVID-19.
What we found most interesting were the responses by organization type, especially in the longer term. 50% of respondents were worried that COVID-19 will negatively impact them in the long horizon. I think they are justified, but answers and impact are varied across types of organizations. If you are an online provider, this could be very good for your business, and their answers reflected high potential. However, many institutions, such as traditional K-12 and Higher Ed, are physical providers, and they are thinking “this is going to disrupt our way of doing things.”
Our next survey in September will be very interesting to compare to the March results, which were an immediate form of feedback. It’s only five months from now, but we will remember that early on in March people in EdTech were saying, “I think this is going to be okay.”
Lisa: Some of our partners are experiencing much higher technology usage rates and hiring in different areas of the organization. Other customers are investing in their teams based on market opportunity. What do you foresee in terms of people growth specifically in EdTech?
Maria: I view it as having to do two things at once. One is growing your business, perhaps doubling it overnight. The second is managing this high growth while everyone is working remotely. That is a double whammy for EdTech companies. Simultaneously, many of their clients and their teams are having a tough time.
I’d love to see the potential of thinking quite differently about talent. For example, in universities so much is being driven online. Talented staff are being reduced in their teaching loads or being affected by a different way of delivering education generally. These people know their institutions, teaching and learning. EdTech could look to them and other Education institutions for talent; this could be a beautiful integration for companies to support an area that is growing hugely, especially as some people are struggling.
Finally, from a macro perspective, there is a short-term blowing up on scale or blowing down depending on where you are in the market, but it is going to be temporary.
Lisa: Is there another question we have not asked that you would like to address?
Maria: The question might be “how will the world react in the current climate?” Humans are amazing when thrown into situations that completely turn their world upside down.
First, they are shocked. I think our early survey results were based on people still in the shock phase. Already we are seeing people say, “OK. It is what it is. Let’s deal with the situation and move forward. What can we do?” Now, we are seeing a whole range of quite creative solutions and combinations of ideas that wouldn’t necessarily be visible or have a chance to occur. In times of crisis, amazing breakthroughs are made.
We sincerely thank Maria and Lisa for committing their time to dialogue and share. Join us in the TRN Blog soon for “The HolonIQ Interview Part Two: Advice and Insight for Leaders in Education and Technology.”
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