The Edtech Unicorns
Unicorns are real. No, we're not talking about the mythical horses with strange appendages stuck to their foreheads. Wow, that sounded a bit weird!
Instead, we're focusing on education technology business unicorns, those superstar industry-leading firms that began as little start-ups but are now worth over $1 billion.
Every start-up dreams of becoming a unicorn. It's the ultimate badge of approval, a signal that big-money investors believe in a project and, more importantly, are happy to fund it with big pots of juicy venture capital investment. Yummy!
And, let's be honest, being part of a $1 billion company is pretty cool, especially if you're one of the start-up OGs. Even tech entrepreneurs committed to 'making the world a better place' enjoy an ego tickle. And that's OK. Tech geniuses are - Zuckerburg excluded, of course - still human.
But unicorns aren't just about the sky-high valuations and personal prestige. They're also a great sign for their industries. A healthy (and growing) unicorn population strongly indicates that thriving start-up spaces like edtech software are transitioning into mainstream, global industries.
The world's biggest global edtech unicorns
All tech unicorns are big, but some are much bigger than others. And a few are absolutely colossal.
ByJu's, an Indian multinational educational technology firm, earned unicorn status in 2017 when it was valued at $22 billion. The undisputed edtech market alpha unicorn, ByJu's provides online computer coding for kids aged 6 - 14.
Tutoring platform Yuanfudao is the only edtech company that comes close to ByJu's valuation. But it's still around $7 billion short. Yuanfudao became a unicorn in 2017, less than five years after its incorporation. Impressive. Considered one of the most innovative players in online education, Yuanfudao has its own AI and cloud computing research institute. Its education platforms use machine learning and speech recognition software to provide bespoke lesson plans for individual students.
Corporate learning provider BetterUp is the USA's biggest edtech platform. Valued at over $4 billion during its 2021 funding round, BetterUp provides a range of online courses and programmes designed to enhance personal and professional development. The BetterUp platform uses data analytics to give companies and employees unprecedented insights into where and how they can improve.
Europe's top edtech unicorn is Austria-based 1-to-1 tutoring platform GoStudent. It earned its unicorn badge in January 2022, when investors valued the firm at €3 billion. GoStudent connects students with private tutors worldwide, selling monthly subscriptions to parents and further education students, with prices starting from £22.50 p/m.
GoStudent was founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneur Felix Ohswald, who wanted to use digital technology to remove barriers to high-quality, student-centric education. Felix said:
"One of the biggest problems in education is lack of access to great teachers. Having a teacher that a child clicks with can be a life-changing encounter — one should not underestimate the importance of the student-teacher bond when it comes to shaping the future. And that's our mission: to ensure every child and young person has this opportunity, regardless of their geographical location."
Multiverse: a recent edtech success story
The UK has its first edtech unicorn. Founded by Euan Blair, the son of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Multiverse is an edtech company that matches young people without degrees to paid apprenticeship programmes in future-proof industries, including software engineering, coding, and data analytics. The company was valued at $1.7 billion during its June 2022 Series D funding round.
Multiverse is an alternative to traditional (and often very costly) university courses. Each course is designed to teach and develop the practical skills top employers are looking for. Multiverse currently runs around 8,000 apprenticeship programmes; over 90% of its apprentices find full-time roles with their employers when the training programming ends.
"Mandating college degrees and making admissions officers the gatekeepers for great careers means leaving out thousands of talented individuals," says Euan Blair. "One of Multiverse's main missions is equality of opportunity. We're building an outstanding alternative to university that can be global, transformative, and accessible."
The biggest edtech trends of 2022
Edtech investment took a big hit during the first half of 2022. And we mean a really big hit! Overall, investment in the global online education market is down by over $10 billion since its 2021 peak.
But it's no cause for concern. Several analysts have pointed out that the edtech market is simply cooling off after a brief period of speculative mania that is kickstarted by COVID-19 lockdowns.
GP Bullhound outlined several key 2022 industry trends in its annual edtech report.
It highlighted the growing popularity of adaptive learning and artificial intelligence platforms. According to the report, over 95% of educators in the US say AI adoption is crucial to providing the kind of service students and parents now expect. Moreover, they believe that higher education institutes that don't harness the power of this new technology will quickly fall behind those that do.
The reports predict a rapid period of growth within some of edtech's most exciting and innovative sectors, including virtual reality (VR.) GP Bullhound's market analysts expect a 32% investment increase by 2025, taking overall spending on educational VR tools to $12 billion. So expect more firms like FundamentalVR. They build VR training simulations for medical students and student surgeons; it's only a matter of time until we see the world's first VR-powered edtech unicorn.
Gamification and game-based learning are other sectors with serious growth potential. Currently valued at $6.9 billion, the industry is on course to a $15.8 billion valuation by 2025.
Edtech marketing experts
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