Entrepreneurs, Investor Talk Unmet Ed-Tech Needs at ISTE

Associate Editor

San Antonio

With hundreds of ed-tech companies on the scene at the ISTE 2017 conference, all of them touting one product or another, where are there opportunities for new companies with new products to make their mark?

A panel of entrepreneurs and an ed-tech investor at the conference shared what they see as unmet opportunities in the education market–from technology that can help schools secure data to a means of more quickly connecting students to the tech they need in the classroom.

“There’s a large need for technology that protects the privacy of kids,” said Adam Tratt, co-founder and CEO of Haiku Deck, which is used by 15,000 schools around the world.

Technology that allows different ed-tech apps to connect more easily to one another is on the opportunity list for John Mlynczah, founder of the online music notation software Noteflight.

Many of the products on display at ISTE are shown as “stand-alone” solutions that company owners hope educators will choose for a specific instructional purpose. But if vendors believe that schools will buy their apps and use them exclusively, “that’s not going to fly,” said Mlynczah, who called Google Classroom a good example of the kind of interconnectivity and integration that should be broadly available.

Entrepreneurs should “pay close attention to the international markets—particularly in the Third World,” where mobile devices are the predominant technology, said Brad Spirrison, the platform innovation director at Participate, a professional development company that focuses on technology, blended learning and microcredentials.

For companies interested in financial returns and making an impact by doing social good, entrepreneurs can find opportunities by bringing online—and engaging with—these educators from countries who might have limited access, he said.

“I’m a big fan of the math sector…mostly in gamification,” said Nasir Qadree, the associate director of social investments at AT&T, where he focuses on education and employment technology investments. For example, one of the startups supported by AT&T’s Aspire Accelerator this year is Learn Fresh, a nonprofit that created NBA  Math Hoops to promote students’ critical thinking skills and get them excited about algebra and math in general, he said.

Vendors offering the right kinds of products can lure investors, too, according to Qadree. “Education is the most active impact sector today,” he said.


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