Education is one of the most stable industries in the region due to the fact it seems to be recession-proof and has continuously posted strong growth figures over the last couple of decades.
However, a common refrain from the industry seems to be a lacklustre attitude regarding innovation and change in the education industry. Therefore, we turn to startups to see if they can fill the void and help push the industry forward.
To better understand how the industry is changing, we spoke to Niko Lindholm, Programme Director at EduSpaze about their newly launched accelerator and what they hope to achieve. Niko has been in the education industry for years and has helped build similar programmes in Europe, as well as been part of the teams that have created pioneering education programmes. He wants to bring that spirit of innovation and his expertise to the Southeast Asian edtech industry and shared his thoughts on that and more.
As someone familiar with education systems outside of Singapore and Southeast Asia, what would you say are the biggest gaps or issues in the region?
Access to quality education is one of the key issues in the region. One opportunity here is to use technology to help close geographic gaps by making materials more available and reducing the costs of doing so. Technology can also help to improve training for educators in more locations than previously, and support those educators with learning materials.
What has been your impression of the edtech startup scene in the region so far? Any particular startup or vertical standout to you?
There are lots of good startups around the region, they tend to focus on addressing problems like access to education, increasing student engagement, closing skill gaps to improve prospects for adults in the job market, etc.
Why Singapore? The announcement mentions ‘strong government support and existing infrastructure within the market’, but could you elaborate on why it was chosen as the base for EduSpaze?
Singapore has great technology and great education, and it is already a popular regional hub for many other sectors, so it was a natural fit.
How do you foresee the partnership between the startups and the ecosystem or community you’re building around EduSpaze with all your education and corporate partnerships?
The partnerships will play a central role in the development of higher quality edtech products. We are operating a co-innovation model where founders and product teams can work closely with relevant partners from the ecosystem to ensure the needs of the end user are included in the product development process at the earliest possible point in time.
We also want to strengthen the community in the ecosystem by bringing different actors together. There is always something to learn from each other. The better the ecosystem actors know each other, the better the results that are created.
Could you define your role as ‘educator in residence’ and how it will impact the startups in your accelerator?
I am the Programme Director at EduSpaze, and will be working with several educators in residence within the programme. Each of the educators in residence brings with them extensive experience as educators within the education system. They work with the EduSpaze startups to help them better understand an educator’s perspective as they go about building their product and business.
Edtech entrepreneurs often do not have access to education experts – the users of their products. Therefore their product development is sometimes slower. We want to close that knowledge gap.
What can startups expect to find if they are accepted for the accelerator?
A customised experience that is relevant to their stage of maturity as a company, and needs and objectives in terms of corporate and product roadmap. We are a founder-friendly organisation and can help them to navigate the sometimes complex journeys they have embarked on. Where relevant we will also connect them to other stakeholders in the ecosystem for mutually beneficial collaborations or discussions. We aim to build the accelerator and the ecosystem into a platform that connects the startups to local, regional and global markets. That work is well underway already.
What’s next for EduSpaze?
Right now we are accepting applications for the 1st cohort. The deadline is 20 December 2019, so after that we will select up to 10 companies to enter the 1st cohort and then begin the programme in February 2020.