This week I sat on a panel at an event about private equity in edtech. It was an interesting day, and my panel looked at why European investors lag behind their US peers and how edtech startups could help them catch up (Q.E.D. investing more often). I will post my thoughts about this later, however what struck me throughout the day was the lack of knowledge about the education sector, domestically, internationally and contextually/historically.
For example an attendee commented ‘Is the new Academies programme a gateway for private equity involvement in education’? Frustrated I pointed out the DNA for Academies was the 1988 Education Reform Act which created City Technology Colleges (like Thomas Telford), that Academies were an extension of this, Free Schools simply the most recent iteration. It reinforced my belief that this type of knowledge plus good competitive intelligence and a healthy dose of horse sense, are as important as the ability of VC/PE firms to find edtech businesses to fit within their very restrictive financial models. So during a break I scribbled down my Taylor’s 10 Test, for would be VC/PE investors in edtech:
- In which Middle Eastern country is the region’s largest private university (1.8m students and assets of US$20bn+). Extra credit if you can give its name and location of its UK campus?
- Who was the 19th century teacherpreneur whose product founded the Correspondence Education Movement? Extra credit if you can name the product, how it was distributed (the ‘internet’ of the mid 19th century) and the education company who purchased the business in 1985.
- Name the US education entrepreneur behind a new private school business set up in New York in 2011. Extra credit if you can name the business and his two previous education businesses.
- Which successful UK edtech startup business is built on high-quality content and uses a media licensing model? Extra credit for the name of the CEO and to whom he sold his last two businesses (Quintus Group)?
- Name the UK education entrepreneur whose business has a £66m investment from Leeds Equity Partners. Extra credit for naming his previous education business, the media company who acquired it, the Australian private equity group who purchased it and the current private equity owner.
- Which US education-focused venture capital firm had Pearson as their biggest limited partner? Extra credit for the name of the Managing Partner whose blog is called Getting SMART and the name of the UK edtech company who they have invested in.
- Which UK edtech startup has a Twitter board member as an investor? Extra credit for the name of the investor, the company they previously ran, and the name of the other VC investor.
- Which continent do almost all of the finalists in the initial cohort of the Pearson Catalyst incubator and Kaplan EdTech Accelerator come from? Extra credit for the name of the highly-regarded Silicon Valley edtech incubator, the amount of money successful applicants receive, and the number of yearly cohorts.
- Name the media company who owned TSL Education before it was first sold to private equity investors. Extra credit for the names of the current and two previous private equity owners.
- Name the private equity fund who purchased Busy Bees in 2013. Extra credit for the name of the ‘owner’ of the fund, the size of their funds under management (+/- £2bn) and the well-known UK company they acquired in 2010.