Social justice at the core of innovation investment

Social justice at the core of innovation investment

Investors are looking for EdTech innovations with a defined purpose, and a goal set on improving the education of students according to EduGrowth’s panel at EduTECH Sydney.

Tim Praill, Head of Navitas Ventures & General Manager Strategy & Transformation at Navitas led the Investor Landscape panel, made up of Joshua Nester, Education Director at SEEK, Karen Bohm, Founding Partner of Pangaea Impact Investments, Clive Mayhew, EdTech Investor and Chairman Open Learning, and Srdjan Dangubic, Partner at Five V Capital.

“Education has a huge impact on lifestyle. We want to see access to quality universal education. At SEEK, we’re trying to ensure equal access to education despite class – this led to our investment ethos,” Joshua Nester said. 

With this philosophy in mind, the panel discussed the challenges and advantages of the Australian ecosystem, and talked about what they look for when investing. 

Scalability is crucial, but before even looking at the product, the panel want to see the drive of the founding team, and if social good is at the core of what the start up is trying to achieve. So much of it comes down to the team, and the founder; have they got what it takes.

Looking at the product, it’s important that the benefit is there, and it is achievable and demonstrable.

“For schools, we need to know does it actually work – moving beyond if it is just flashy new kit – we need to get ROI in terms of student outcomes,” Karen Bohm said. 

Getting into schools can be a challenge, as there is no unified approach, with much of it just being door-to-door sales with principals, who have the final say on purchasing decisions. 

The panel’s advice to the education sector is to open up this process, free up the accreditation process and allow innovators to work with schools on the problem.

Outside of schools, universities are getting on board with EdTech innovations. Once slow to adopt, many are now leading the charge to keep pace with student and employer demands for work-ready, lifelong learners whose skills can be continually added to with micro-accreditations. 

The advice to innovators out there looking to pitch is to be ready to implement, start small and show that you can offer your end-to-end solutions. The Australian market, being smaller, offers great opportunities for those starting out.

The panel argued that innovators looking to go straight to the US market may struggle, given so much money is required to break through. 

Some of our neighbours, like Malaysia or Indonesia, are great places for Australian EdTech companies to expand. They offer connected markets where traction in one is viewed favourably by others.

Overall, the panel want to see innovators ensuring they have their strategies in place, with an offering for social issues that may not have been addressed yet. Investors want to build relationships with innovators. 

The end result has to be getting these innovations into the hands of students and teachers, so that improvements to outcomes can be built. The process has to be for the benefit of education. 

‘The EdTech Investor Landscape’ was a thought leadership panel session sponsored by Navitas Ventures, held on the Innovation Stage at EduTECH Conference, Friday 7 June 2019.