EduSpaze, Singapore’s first educational technology (edtech) accelerator has announced their second cohort of startups. Seven early-stage edtech companies from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and The Philippines have been selected for the second cohort from over 200 applicants across 30 countries (See Appendix A). They slot into the categories of K-12, higher education, and corporate learning. All participating companies will present their solutions at a virtual demo day on 5 May 2021.
EduSpaze is managed by seed capital firm and startup incubator, Spaze Ventures, and supported by Enterprise Singapore, the enterprise development agency. EduSpaze aims to nurture a vibrant edtech startup ecosystem that serves the education sector in Singapore and Southeast Asia by supporting early-stage edtech companies with up to S$500,000 funding, providing a unique accelerator programme, mentor support, and an environment for pilot project implementations in the region. The EduSpaze team will work with founders over the course of the 100-day programme to accelerate their progress in market fit, client discovery, product development, scalability, revenue generation, and strategies to attract follow-on capital investment.
Early last year, eight startups from EduSpaze’s first cohort were halfway through the programme when the pandemic struck the region. As a result, EduSpaze had to suspend deep-dive trips and pivot to a virtual programme. In spite of the limitations presented by COVID-19, EduSpaze was able to help the startups achieve the intended objectives. All the startups were able to raise additional funding and seven out of eight teams were successful in product testing, selling and scaling across Southeast Asia. Furthermore, four startups, whose products are pedagogical in nature, successfully passed Educational Alliance Finland’s (EAF) rigorous testing of its design based on principles of educational psychology.
Following the success of last year’s cohort, EduSpaze has decided to roll-out a fully virtual accelerator programme for the second cohort. The virtual approach has become a new way for startups to scale as it allows EduSpaze to connect the startups with more schools, local partners and investors in a given period of time. Opportunities will be set up for startups to conduct pilot projects with schools, establish connections with local partners and to test and penetrate more markets in the region this year. Existing markets include Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, and the markets of Japan and Australia will be added this year to help startups access the APAC region at large.
EduSpaze doubles down emphasis on pedagogy
In a post-pandemic world, edtech is no longer optional. Through 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in disruption to learning on an incredible and global scale, with the rapid acceleration of technology uptake supporting education continuity. According to HolonIQ’s report on global edtech venture capital, 2020 closed 32 times higher in venture capital investment compared to 2010. This is particular in Asia where the region is known to place greater value on education. Asia’s share of edtech venture capital investment has been steadily increasing and now accounts for almost 80% of all global edtech investments. Furthermore, as internet connectivity and infrastructure continues to improve in the region, Asia is predicted to see increased uptake of edtech and corresponding investment funding
“Certainly, the education ecosystem has been overexposed to a barrage of tech solutions – whether they are ‘edtech’ branded or not – as a result of the pandemic last year. In the current Southeast Asian landscape, the main challenge that edtech is resolving is access to quality education and we see that many edtech companies are still focused on shifting education online or disseminating content,” said Alex Ng, Managing Director of EduSpaze. “That said, existing edtech is more ‘tech’ than ‘ed’. Startups need to co-innovate with educators to develop needs-based solutions that augment their work and lead to improved learning outcomes. What we are working to achieve at EduSpaze is not about “disrupting” education as the COVID-19 situation is doing that already. Rather, we are focused on building a stronger edtech innovation ecosystem amongst educators, entrepreneurs, and other partners so we can improve learning outcomes and make education meaningful and effective.”
He adds, “This is the rationale why EduSpaze is putting a greater pedagogical focus on product evaluation for the 2nd cohort. We doubling down efforts to measure the effectiveness of edtech products when it comes to improved learning outcomes and other positive impact metrics.” EduSpaze will continue their partnership with Education Alliance Finland (EAF), an expert organisation specialising in pedagogical design as well as scientifically-backed quality evaluations of learning solutions. Each startup will receive an endorsed report that includes evidence-based and concrete suggestions to better improve the impact of their product in the countries they operate in.
“Although the world is now more open and aware of the possibilities of edtech, the boom of the sector and the opportunities it presents also mean newer and tougher competition. Edtech startups, especially those in the early-stage, cannot let the heat of the sector get to them and must have a keener focus on the content, quality, and effectiveness of the end product,” said Alamanda Shantika, Founder and President Director of Binar Academy. “As such, we are immensely excited to be part of EduSpaze’s 2nd cohort as we are able to tap on their strong network of education partners. This will go a long way in helping us better develop a nuanced understanding of education on the ground which would then inform how we should refine our solutions. We are aligned with EduSpaze’s emphasis on pedagogy and look forward to scale and grow with them.”