I’ve just read a story in the Evening Standard by Oscar Williams-Grut (what a great name for a journalist). His story sang the praise of MMC London Fund, described as ‘a partnership between the Mayor’s Office and fund manager MMC Ventures’.
According to Williams-Grut, in 13 months the fund has invested £5.1m (or 36%) of its £14m into 13 businesses – a respectable £425k per month.
I wondered if edtech was on MMC’s radar and a quick look at their website shows that it’s not – instead they focus on ‘consumer and media internet, business support services, financial services and software. The UK is a world leader in all these industries and consequently a centre of innovation and experience’. This may be true, but so is education. Given how much time Boris bangs on about it, you’d think it might be something MMC should focus on as well.
Perhaps it was just an oversight from a young journalist, however having attended Cambridge University and a grammar school founded in 1615, I would have expected Grut to have a better grasp of the wonders of the English education system. Equally, so should Boris, who aside from being an alumnus of Eton and Oxford, a former journalist, Shadow Minister for Higher Education (appointed in 2005 by none other than David Cameron) is also a history enthusiast. Were he more au fait with the 20th and 21st centuries rather the Roman Empire, he would have known that at various points over the last 30 years England has been a world leader in edtech (from RM’s first educational computers in 1977 through Thomas Telford Online, to being the first country to have coding as part of the curriculum).
A month or so back I heard Deputy Major Kit Malthouse enthuse about London and edtech and while he seemed sincere, the proof of the pudding is sadly lacking in terms of investment. To put it in a more personal perspective, the miniscule amount I have personally invested UK edtech startups is more than either Apple or Google. This is just one tiny illustration of the gap between the rhetoric of Boris and the media platitudes for funds like the MMC London Fund. The UK remains an edtech investment desert.
So come on Boris, Kit and MMC, I challenge you to invest just 2.5% (£350k) of your £14m in UK edtech start-ups! You will be backing an education ecosystem which is more clearly a world leader than anything in ‘business support services and financial services.