The European edtech industry may finally have found its rendezvous.
This week, an estimated 500 C-level education entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers will gather at Kings Place, London for Edtech Europe, a one-day summit featuring keynotes from big names like Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.
London is already home to BETT, one of the biggest annual education technology gatherings in the world with an estimated 40,000 attendees in 2015. The atmosphere can often resemble a trade show replete with colorful booths, gift bags and armies of marketing teams from over 500 exhibitors. (Here's a recap of this year's event.)
But a dedicated gathering for entrepreneurs and investors was missing, according to Charles McIntyre, CEO and co-founder of IBIS Capital, an investment banking firm, and EdTech Europe. So he looked across the Atlantic Ocean for models that have been successful in coalescing decision makers in the industry.
“What we wanted to do was replicate what we saw in the US, where there are events like ASU+GSV [Summit] and SXSWedu to support the edtech ecosystem,” he tells EdSurge.
The lack of an industry network made it tough for most Europeans starting an education company. “Across Europe that are about 3,000 edtech companies, but most of them were pretty small,” says McIntyre. “What they have suffered from is a lack of investment coming in from the market.” Most startups are bootstrapped with support from families or angel investors, but institutional capital is often hard to come by. “Since 2007 $6 billion has been invested in edtech businesses in the US. In Europe it’s about 10% of that amount,” McIntyre adds, citing research from IBIS Capital.
One of the big goals for Edtech Europe is to stimulate investor interest by spotlighting 20 of the most promising European edtech startups.
In addition to supporting local entrepreneurs, McIntyre wants to educate entrepreneurs from the rest of the globe about the market opportunity in Europe. Unlike the US, where there is an effort to adopt a unified set of academic standards, “the fragmentation [across the different countries] means the market, as a whole, can be more versatile in addressing different education problems and pedagogies,” he suggests.
McIntyre sees an even bigger market opportunity in Asia, where he estimates there will be over 100 million postsecondary students in the coming years. Edtech Europe has plans to put together an event in Asia next year (it’ll likely have to change its name), and has established partnerships in other parts of the world with organizations like WISE, an education initiative established by the Qatar Foundation.
“When [Edtech Europe] first gathered [in 2013], it was very much a gathering of European-interested parties, with little outside attention,” McIntyre recalls. “Next year, 20 percent of our audience came from North America, and many of them were first focused on markets within their boundaries. This year, that has started to change.”