It’s 2016 and after more than 10 years of attending BETT I’m still looking forward to what I will see this time.
BETT is about edtech but the bit I’m interested in can be found in the Futures section, located fortuitously next to the Press Office.
This year I expect to see several companies who I know well like Night Zookeeper, TeachPitch, Pobble, Now>Press>Play and Technology Will Save Us, but it’s the new companies like Nano Simbox and Diagnostic Questions that I am always the most interested in.
What I don’t expect to see much of this year are two companies; Apple and Pearson:
- Apple always have a parallel event in London during BETT. Why they do this, how you get invited and where it takes place I have no idea (I’ve never been invited) although I did stumble into it by accident while having lunch in the same building in Kings Cross two years ago
- Pearson may or may not be at BETT depending on which of my sources I believe. I think they will be there in some form, but they key here is at what scale? Pearson normally spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on their stand, but for all this investment I thought it was a bit disappointing in 2015. With the financial blowtorch to their loins, Pearson won’t be splashing big bucks at BETT because if they did it would be yet another final nail in John Fallon’s coffin. I have to disclose that last year I sat on a BETT panel hosted by Pearson (along with George Burgess of Gojimo and Oula Akiki, who was then Director of Education at bussu). This event was filmed but you and I can’t see it because according to Pearson, “we couldn’t put it anywhere it because you swore too much”! I wonder what I said that was so egregious, but in any case it’s my plainly spoken views that get invited to these dog-and-pony shows in the first place.
Preceding BETT is the secretive World Education Forum, where to get in you need to be a member of one of the over 120 education ministerial delegations or a sponsor with a big chequebook! I have snuck in once and it was about as interesting as being stuck at an international gathering of tax accountants. The event is overstuffed with political heavy hitters but I think for many it’s the start to a two week jaunt/jolly that starts at WEF, includes a flying (90 min.) visit to BETT before boarding a private charter flight to Davos for the World Economic Forum.
For edtech the big news at WEF was supposed to be DfE Secretary of State Nicky Morgan announcing Imperial College’s £3.5m investment for 20% of TWIG. This would have been a great good news story for Mrs Morgan and the government, except it leaked out as a side bar story in the business section of The Sunday Times. For Anthony Bouchier, Catherine Cahn and the TWIG team this is a huge vindication of their six year old business. Edtech investors should take note as it gives TWIG an enterprise value of £17.5m. For those with long memories this is less than the £62m Archipelago Learning paid for Education City in 2010 (revenue £9.2m x14 £4.4m EBITDA) but I suspect TWIG may do even better by 2021! A more similar deal was the estimated £20m Discovery paid for Espresso Education in 2013 (revenue £13.5m and EDITA of £3.4m). Espresso was founded 16 years ago in 1997 by Lewis Bronze, now Director of Content at Discovery Education and one of wisest men in the education. Ironically, Discovery may also be looking to sell of it’s education business, which may knock one potential trade buyer off TWIG’s branch.
Let BETT begin!