Happy February!

January is finally in our rearview mirror, for which I think we can be thankful.

One of the highlights of this time of year for me is that I often catch up with a friend who has a fascinating job. He works for a venture capital firm that invests only in education technology companies. His job is so far away from the day-to-day of pandemic management, and his optimism so high for the great developments ahead, it is hard not to get excited about the opportunities and tools that might support our work on the road ahead.

As a venture capital guy, he has a reason to be optimistic. The ed tech market was growing quickly before the pandemic, and it has only accelerated during this time. As this report on the ed tech market share and size notes: The global education technology market size was valued at USD 89.49 billion in 2020 and is expected to witness a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.9% from 2021 to 2028.

To give you a sense of the scope, check out the graph below, which can also be found at this link to PitchBook.

I’d like to share with you seven of the companies that were shared with me, with a couple extras around the margins. I encourage you to check them out, if only to understand what is being built out there and how it might be helpful to your school or otherwise disrupt education as a whole. Some of these offerings were surprising to me and others make incredible sense given changes we have seen across everyday life over the last two years.

  • Thrive Global. This platform is designed to help on the employee well-being side of the equation. There are a few of these tools out there now, but this one seems like one of the most built out. It’s sort of a Peloton for emotional wellness and change, helping increase resilience and well-being among other things, but also providing insights into the overall health of your team over time. COA is another one of these companies, and I am sure there are others. These are fascinating organizations as they are building on the idea of crisis and burnout prevention and moving into building mental health and wellness capacity as opposed to the support found in traditional employee assistance program.
  • Woebot Health. Given the emergence of telehealth, particularly for mental health services, in retrospect this one seemed like only a matter of time. It is an interactive AI journaling tool that works with mental health practitioners to provide additional engagement with patients. Importantly for our world, it is in trials for FDA clearance related to helping treat adolescent depression. Tools like this may ultimately be used with school counselors or other practitioners to serve students and adults to scale. Paired with a tool like the developing Mantra Health, these kinds of tools may be able to integrate student mental health needs more seamlessly and more holistically into their education experience.
  • Hazel. Let’s take this one step further. Hazel is a telehealth provider for schools and school districts. It works with school nurses, counselors, parents, and others to provide physical and mental health support to K-12 students. I am particularly interested in this service as some schools have seen a real benefit to have nurse practitioners or health professionals on staff that can diagnose, order tests, or prescribe medication to students. This service can complement those services or potentially supplement the service the school has in place now. 
  • Class. This provider falls directly into the category of “things we wish we had in March 2020.” Class provides an overlap to Zoom to create all kinds of useful management tools. It allows things like sending specific content to specific breakout rooms, monitoring all breakout rooms simultaneously, and more or less being able to run a zoom much like a regular classroom. You will see on the schools page that this tool is already being adopted into charter and independent schools.
  • Emile. One of the more interesting concepts in education over the last few years has been the growth of modules that fit within the school structure. Project Lead the Way is one of these, providing a streamlined way for schools to offer engineering curriculum in which teachers are given hands on training and a support network without having to recreate the wheel (do check out the map on the site, many independent schools use it as a jumping off point for their programming). Emile goes one step further, offering core classes and extracurricular courses to students within their high schools. Emile has a base in the Master Class execution and techniques, making the videos and delivery slick and engaging. For schools looking to expand their offerings or fill certain spots, this might be a platform to explore.
  • Stash101. Many schools are looking at personal finance education for students. As with Emile, Stash101 is a platform for teaching and learning. It includes investing, managing money, and creating real life simulations. It comes with curriculum for those who want to use it, including in important areas like cryptocurrency education. Unlike Emile, Stash101 is completely free and their objective is to keep it that way. It is largely funded by the organization’s for-profit investment side. For a little press on Stash101, see here. Of additional interest might be Stash101’s parent company, Stash. Stash is an investment platform, but it is also a financial education platform for adults so that they can learn about investing and managing their money. Born of the idea that most people have no idea how to invest or manage their own money, the platform helps both educate and move people toward their long-term goals, while providing the ability to invest in ETFs, cryptocurrency, and other investments.
  • Lingo Ace. Foreign language learning is a place where America really doesn’t compete with many of its competitor nations. And yet, we know that it is important to future leaders. Services like Lingo Ace, which specializes in teaching Chinese through games, music, and other high engagement methods would like to upend that trajectory. Platforms like this are speaking specifically to the parent market and provide additional support for students outside of school.
  • Fiveable. Fiveable provides a platform for students to get together and study or work together, or to work separately but stay on task. It has timers, task lists, and ways for students to manage their collective work. It also has free study guides, videos, college application support materials, and more. This idea seemed completely bizarre to me, but my 16-year-old thought it made perfect sense and that the timers and things would be particularly helpful for organizing study groups and projects.

These are just a handful of the development in the ed tech world that are moving quickly. For those interested in these kinds of shifts ahead, I recommend checking out ASU/GSV, and the summit they offer in April in San Diego. The first time I went, an ed tech friend told me that if I ever had any concerns about investors getting involved in education, nothing about this conference would change my mind. He wasn’t wrong in that summation, but at the same time it is fascinating to see what money, time, innovation, and some very smart people create that might change education for the better, particularly if we are part of the conversation.

Have a great month!