Technapex Panel #2 was another success! Excitement picked up before the actual day of the event when we learned that we had sold out of tickets! People were definitely excited to chat with local edtech enthusiasts and learn from our star panel of investors who are interested in the education tech space. The event was held at Roe Lounge again. Special thanks to the audio/video, drinks, and catering team for keeping our guests happy the entire night!
After a bit of mingling, our panel was underway. Liz Gannes from AllThingsD kicked off the night with introductions and the question “What kind of companies are you looking at right now?”
Ethan Kurzweil from Bessemer Ventures said they are flexible when it comes to new investments. Currently, Bessemer is invested in Piazza, the company of our last panel’s speaker, Pooja Sankar. Cook Wylly of NewSchools Venturefund said they are open to both for profit and non-profit companies. They tend to invest in schools, human captial, and edtech, particularly companies dealing with personalized learning for low-income students. Tabreez Verjee, of Impact at Scale, is concentrated solely on seed stage investments, so often it’s about finding great teams not just great companies. Learn Capital focuses on for profit companies and Principal Nathaniel Whittemore said he’s been looking at different distribution channels to get to students. Unfortunately, the decision maker for student tools is often not the students themselves, rather administrators and faculty. Just as we’re seeing a consumerization of enterprise tech, the same trend is happening in education tech. Edtech companies, like Edmodo, are now going directly to teachers with their product instead of districts.
When asked what investors are looking for next, the points brought up were pleasantly surprising. The panelists expressed interest in the teaching soft skills and building a student’s character as a person. Tabreez said developing sense of humor has become the most important skill, so new companies should focus on cultivating that. Internet has given birth to new forms of communication, and education needs to cater to it. For example, Piazza was solving the problem of giving homework help to people who didn’t feel comfortable asking questions in front of other people. In a coding-heavy tech culture, we talk negatively about soft skills, but it’s equally important to get better at teaching both soft and hard skills. Even the way people get jobs and launch their careers is different than it was in the past and college readiness is seeing a huge achievement gap. Ethan pointed out that the underlying purpose of education is to democratize access. Education is connected to employment and success, but the real reason lies in solidifying the skills we’re setting students with and enabling them to achieve their biggest potential.
The panelists left us with some good resources to read: MindShift
, but none of these beat actually talking to entrepreneurs, particularly the ones who are running companies you admire. There’s plenty of conferences to attend too: NewSchools Venturefund Summit and Jason Calacanis’ upcoming LAUNCH conference.
Speaking of conferences, Technapex has been thrilled by the success of our first two events and we’re exploring possibilities of expanding the event to invite more speakers and discuss more edtech topics. It’s clear that interest in education tech is high, so keep an eye out for a larger event this fall. Check back at technapex.com for first details. If you missed our event last night, we’ll have full video footage of the panel next week. You know where to find it!