Accelerating Education Companies

At eltjam, we’ve mentioned EdTech accelerators a few times recently. But what exactly are they, and how do they work? If you’ve got a great EdTech business idea, how could an accelerator help? Stephen Parkes of Go Enrol is immersed in the EdTech startup scene and has first-hand experience of working with accelerators. In this guest post, he gives us an overview:

In recent years EdTech companies have become increasingly popular to start and education has been on the radar of more investors. Despite this increase, achieving the magic word “traction” remains firmly needed for any startup looking to raise money. What “traction” means, however, varies vastly between investors. Some focus on revenue. Others on users. Others essentially want you to have proven the business is sustainable. All of this before we have got into pedagogy, team and a host of other factors.

To get to the stage where you are in a position to receive external investment from serious investors you used to be faced only with the hard slog of making it on your own. This year several education accelerators and incubators have started. They are more open about the stage of businesses they will take on. They can deal with teams who have nothing more than a concept, but equally can support businesses which are several years old.

The Edtech Incubator” was the first to go public with their scheme. Led by the Education Foundation, its aim is to help startups scale up and have a bigger impact. They aim to do this through advice from their team, mentoring  and providing work space. Its prime differentiator is that, currently, it’s focused on helping teacher led startups. Obviously that leaves many EdTech startups out of the loop as many of the companies are not started by current or former teachers.

Another accelerator which has been in the works during 2013 and will be announcing its first cohort shortly is Emerge Education. A programme established by the Emerge Venture Lab, Emerge Education is focused on simply great ideas which will change education. They provide a £15,000 stipend, co-working space and business support in the form of mentors, access to customers. Emerge take an equity stake in exchange for their support.

Both of these accelerators are London based, as are plenty of others. For those of you wanting to access an accelerator elsewhere in the UK, you do have options. Accelerators and incubators have sprung up across the UK to support startup businesses, in all sectors. Examples include Oxygen in Birmingham and Accelerate Cambridge at Judge Business School. Their core offerings are similar to Emerge and EdTech Incubator, but are broader in focus.

The advantage of that is that you benefit from lessons learnt from other types of businesses which you can apply to education. The downside is that by their nature the organisations are unlikely to have as many industry contacts. For example, Emerge recently announced a partnership with Eton College which will see some of their teachers acting as mentors to Emerge’s ventures.

There are other accelerators in the works which no doubt will launch in the coming year and you could look to move to the US which has a more mature market with the likes of Imagine K12. Pearson and Kaplan have also been experimenting with formats of support.

Whichever route you decide to try, do not forget that it is all about executing the idea.

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3 thoughts on “Accelerating Education Companies”

  1. As someone who is interested in ELT materials writing, ELT and EdTech, ELTJam has become essential reading for me now even though I’m not necessarily convinced by all the arguments made.

    I have no idea how many hits you are getting, but keep up the great work, please.

    Just one thing though, I don’t think the micro-interviews really work. The interviewees need to be able to expnd on their answers a litle bit more.


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