Collaborating for growth in the K-12 education market

By Joseph Wilson @ MaRS
Note: This blog post was co-written with Howard B. Esbin.

Over the past few years, despite the economic downturn, there was one industry that saw drastic growth in investment: education. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, investment in education technology (edtech) companies grew from $146 million in 2002 to $429 million in 2011.

There are entrepreneurs all over the world disrupting the K–12 education system. MaRS is home to around 50 of them, including those creating educational games, system efficiencies and innovative curricula. Ontario is well positioned to lead change in education through social innovation. In early May 2012, The Atlantic’s feature story was titled “What America Can Learn From Ontario’s Education Success.”

Source: National Venture Capital Association, Thomson Reuters

Many companies experiencing early success in the education market still face a tremendous barrier when scaling their companies as there is no single education market in North America for them to grow into. Rather, there are a whopping 20,000 school districts under the control of a patchwork of federal, provincial, state and local regulators. This makes the scaling of education ventures exceedingly difficult. In response, a number of initiatives based on collaboration, rather than competition, have emerged among education ventures.

Bellwether Education Partners (BEP) is an American national non-profit organization “dedicated to accelerating the achievement of low-income students.” In April 2011, BEP released a report outlining several immense barriers to crucial innovation reaching school districts, including: “an irrational, idiosyncratic philanthropic capital market, massive fragmentation, market domination by a few large publishers, and little pressure from competition or customers to innovate.” BEP calls for “radical collaboration” involving multiple stakeholders using shared technologies and platforms to create optimal impact and efficiency.

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Reposted from MaRS Discovery District.

Joe is currently an education advisor at MaRS. He also writes on issues of technology and culture for NOW Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Spacing and Yonge Street. He is the Executive Director of the Treehouse Group, dedicated to fostering innovation by hosting cross-disciplinary events.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.


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