Thinking about education

It wasn’t long ago when conventional wisdom believed that building software to sell into the education market was really really hard (at best). School budgets are constantly under attack, infinite sales cycles, suboptimal IT infrastructure & connectivity, teacher training…the list goes on and on.

And frankly, many of those issues still exist.

But there are new models & technologies emerging that break through those old rules. The web once again shows us not to paint with a broad brush. So let’s not count out education either. Education is a critical area with enormous potential for innovation.

I’m excited about all of the possibilities. Few thoughts:

0. Impact of open source (software, courses, textbooks)

1. New learning models (peer-to-peer, virtual worlds, gaming, distance learning, online degrees)

2. New platforms (ebooks/kindle, iphone, cloud, collaboration, digital music, art)

3. Better informed parents & students (peer produced reviews is starting to happen with college and graduate schools – we need more of this and also would love to see it at the middle school & high school levels. I’ll leave it for another post how i picked my high school and college as a kid)

4. New types of funding/fundraising/financing (ie cMarket, Donors Choose)

(it’s just after midnight and I’m starting to fade – pls pardon me as I’m sure I’m leaving out important areas. Please add to this list in the comments and I’ll update this post later)

Many of these new models and businesses do not require a sale to the school or the state. They go direct to the parent and/or the student. That’s a big change and we’re going to see more of that.

Some of these new models are freemium based which make it dramatically easier for the teacher and schools to support.

And some of these new models may require a direct sales effort to the schools. But even that is getting better as everyone involved (teachers, administrators, students, parents) has the motivation to improve our current system and try new things. Plus, more students have computers and schools continue to improve their connectivity.

I’m delighted that our firm, Spark Capital, made an investment in 8D World which is our first portfolio company in the education market. We look forward to making more investments in the future of education so please let us know if you are working in this important area.