The pandemic accelerated edtech innovations as K-12 and colleges everywhere went virtual. But the future of edtech is not confined to schools. Covid-19 is also pushing education to the forefront in the office setting.
San Francisco-based multi-stage investor Owl Ventures increasingly sees more willingness to embrace edtech in the professional setting as the new normal of hybrid working settles in.
Ian Chiu, managing director at the edtech-focused firm, said that people can no longer rely on their college or graduate degrees to prove they are skilled. Thus, many companies are turning to more training. But, as offices seek to create safe work environments, the old way of training employees is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
“A huge trend for us is this focus on skill,” Chiu said. “There are easily hundreds of millions of learners in this category that intersect in the professional world and education is a big, big, strategic lever and market. It’s going to be a big trend going forward.”
He added that the era where people gathered in hotel conference rooms for training has come and gone. In the next five to 10 years, employee upskilling will move online.
In September 2020, Owl Ventures closed $585 million in new funds to continue investing in edtech opportunities.
Owl Ventures has already invested in several projects bringing edtech to offices. One of its portfolio companies is SV Academy, which offers online training for underserved communities to learn skills for technology jobs. It also co-led the $30.75 million Series A round in Class Technologies, which integrates learning applications with Zoom.
The edtech sector is one of the many growing areas that investors have targeted during the pandemic. Data from S&P Global Intelligence noted that globally, edtech has raised $1.9 billion from venture capital in 2021 so far. The majority of this came from US-based companies, which put up $875.7 million.
Worldwide edtech growth
Venture Capital Journal previously reported that the edtech sector is experiencing a boom and is likely to inspire more exits this coming year. Owl Ventures has said it sees strong potential in online education and K-12.
Chiu said moving edtech more into the professional space expands its addressable audience, moving from traditional students to employees. For this reason, he said edtech is poised to grow even more.
“If you think about people who traditionally would take time away to go to graduate school or go offsite for a week, not everyone has the luxury of doing that,” he noted. “But once you empower people to do it more on the go or during breaks in windows that fit into their lives, you unlock hundreds of millions of folks.”
Owl Ventures is also seeing more companies grow internationally and plans to work with more founders seeking to provide more education opportunities abroad. Owl Ventures already invested in several start-ups working in Asia and Europe. One of these is Labster, a Danish company offering virtual access to labs. Chiu said Labster has partnered with colleges in Asia to allow students to use labs even if they don’t have physical access to one.
Tory Patterson, managing partner at Owl Ventures, said the pandemic accelerated the pace of edtech because more people saw the gaps in education and training.
“Not only are parents exposed to it, but teachers have been exposed to a lot of different digital technologies,” Patterson said. “For higher education and corporate training, things got really compressed by meaningful amounts of what otherwise would have taken much longer to have the ecosystem ready to adopt.”