Chronicling The Biggest Edtech Failures Of The Last Decade
With the edtech industry set to reach a global value of $252 billion by next year, one might think that business is booming. However, that does not mean that all is well in the world of the edtech startup.
The edtech industry has always been a challenging one. Edtech startups often fail to understand the marketplace they are trying to break in, struggle with finding the right business model, and do not keep end users’ needs and concerns in mind.
Here are some of the biggest edtech failures of the last decade as well as insights into where they went wrong.
inBloom was funded in 2011 with $100 million, most of which came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It launched two years later, in 2013, and came crashing down just one year later in 2014. inBloom was intended to be an open source platform that would allow data from different systems to be stored. The intended outcome was to provide better data to teachers and administrators to improve learning outcomes.
In many ways, inBloom had it all, money, talent, and resources, but its ambitious goals scared schools and fired up a discussion about privacy and student data. In many ways, inBloom showed the differences between the culture of startups and how change happens in education. The thought leaders behind inBloom thought educational reform would be fast and easy, but they quickly ran into the reality of the situation, which is public education is comprised of many stakeholders with different agendas and perspectives.
SharpScholar, founded in 2014 and closed in 2016, was an innovative and effective assessment tool that helped to make teaching more interactive. It experienced early success and had 5,000 students in five Canadian universities using the platform.
One of the founders of the company, Jawwad Siddiqui, has been very open about where the company went wrong in confronting the challenges of the edtech industry. For example, Jawwad has discussed how they created a product that required buy-in from many stakeholders, making the selling process more complicated as it involved teachers, students, university administration, and the government.
TutorSpree, founded in 2011 and closed in 2013, is another example of a startup that failed despite being well funded and receiving praise from many media outlets. Also, there is an obvious market for online tutoring as the after-school tutoring market is set to reach $90 billion in value by next year in China.
Tutorspree seems to have had one main problem. One is that while it was a good place for tutors and tutees to connect, they often abandoned the platform, choosing to work together directly. Unfortunately, Tutorspree never managed to fix this fatal flaw.
KNO, established in 2009 and sold to Intel in 2013 for pennies on the dollar, was a startup that started in mobile hardware and then shifted to the digital textbooks space when tablets became widely available to consumers.
As other startups in this list, KNO started out very well funded but it was not able to survive the shifts it had to make to survive. It has been pointed out that KNO is a case of Silicon Valley solving a problem that the market did not think it had.
How have you been affected by these and other edtech startup failures? Where do you think most edtech startups go wrong?