As the educational technology industry has grown over the past 15 years, certain investors have become well-known for their contributions to ed-tech startups. We’ve compiled a list of the most notable investors active in this sector right now. The first three on the list, NewSchools Venture Fund, 500 Startups, and LearnCapital, are known as the biggest investors in ed-tech entrepreneurs, but all seven are worth watching. As the leading venture capitalists and investors in education, their current decisions set future trends and help to drive development across the educational technology landscape. What they invest in today will shape the classrooms for schools, teachers, and students tomorrow. Take a look at this quick overview of the financial giants behind much of the tech in schools today, and learn why they do what they do.
NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit that uses charitable funds from donors to support the efforts of educational entrepreneurs – particularly innovative ideas that have the potential for a positive impact. NewSchools has invested in a number of innovative and specialty schools, which create accessible solutions for students of every learning type. They also have invested in a wide variety of tools and services – including online programs, software, and applications – all designed to help educators create differentiated learning solutions for their students.
500 Startups is a large-scale venture capital firm that invests in startups all over the world. They invest in a variety of markets, including digital services, family and education technology, and emerging markets. Among their investments are multiple student and educator collaborative sharing platforms, such as Kidblog and Yellowdig, as well as supplemental instructional applications such as Motion Math and Front Row. 500 Startups has supported more than 25 ed-tech startups, focusing on companies that aim to simplify learning for both educators and students, in and out of the classroom.
LearnCapital is a venture capital firm focused exclusively on funding entrepreneurs who have a vision for better and smarter learning. The organization has invested in big names like EdSurge and Coursera, as well as fresh ideas like Outschool, a safe community where parents can find pre-planned classes and field trips for their children.
Kapor Capital is a fund that invests in the power of transformative ideas and diverse teams. The principal concept behind their operations is that startup companies have the ability to transform industries in a way that addresses social needs. A strong supporter of differentiated and personalized learning, Kapor Capital invests in companies like Allovue, EdCast, and Fidelis, which connect students with educators to create personalized learning solutions for every student.
Rethink Education invests in companies that strive to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century learning. Before investing in a startup, Rethink Education puts it through an extensive review process to ensure that it is investing in more than just “a better version of.” They work hard to find true differentiation in the market, seeking entrepreneurs that are creating new categories of educational support grounded in rigorous pedagogy and a strong business model. Among the big names Rethink Education invests in is McGraw-Hill, one of the “big three” educational publishing companies.
An investor in Facebook and Spotify, Accel partners with entrepreneurs around the world who have the creativity and dedication to reimagine ideas and create the next big ones. Although Accel does not invest exclusively in ed-tech companies, they have invested in innovative new concepts such as Osmo, a camera-controlled gaming accessory for the iPad that helps kids engage in hands-on educational games. Accel also supports a selection of educational apps and websites, including Educreations and Lynda.
This fund invests in products that increase student engagement, make educators more efficient so they can focus on students, or give teachers insight into what students are learning and areas that need more attention. They want to invest in companies that depart from the ideas that have dominated the ed-tech industry for decades. Although the EdTech Fund invests in fewer companies than some of the other investors on this list, it is notable for the fact that its investments are exclusively in ed-tech startups, such as Unbound Concepts and TeachBoost.
Trends in Investing. Trends in the Classroom.
The trends we see in investing are the ones we will see growing and expanding in the classroom. As the foregoing list shows, the biggest investors in ed-tech are putting their support into companies that offer personalized and differentiated learning solutions. In this era of accessible technology for the classroom, the most promising tools educators are taking advantage of are applications, software, and accessories that help facilitate personalized learning plans for all students in the classroom and beyond. The other big trend is STEM – these groups are investing heavily in creating tomorrow’s engineers and innovators. We see investments in repositories of interactive science lessons, as well as in ways to make math more fun and real-world based.
If you’re interested in joining the personalized and differentiated learning trend, products like interactive touch projectors and the MimioMobile™ application are helpful tools that are within easy budgetary reach. Bringing inquiry-based science to the classroom is happening right now with such innovative tools as the portable STEM lab. Investing in today’s students and education is always a sound investment!