EdNET-working the Crowd

About 500 education industry professionals—suppliers, administrators, and practitioners, plus Ambient Insight—came to Denver at the end of September for the 25th annual EdNET conference.

Nelson Heller, creator of EdNET conference

Nelson Heller, creator of EdNET

That in itself was a cause for celebration, as the networking conference that Nelson Heller (2009 inductee into the Association of American Publishers’ Hall of Fame and currently president of The HellerResults Group) started in 1988 is still going strong.

Conversations and presentations ranged from new ways to use data to traditional and new approaches to funding. One theme that came up at EdNET this year was one that Ambient Insight has seen across the planet and that was the need for suppliers to think about teaching the teachers how to implement and incorporate a new learning technology product. “Teachers are busy… (A product) needs to be a simple as an ATM machine” because teachers don’t have the time to figure out how to implement or incorporate a learning product, according to Harold Levy’s point of view as an investment firm executive.

EdNET 2013 "Staying Nimble in an Evolving Market"

Harold Levy, former New York City Schools Chancellor and now Managing Director at Palm Ventures, and Clement Erbmann, Managing Director of First Analysis and formerly with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, participated in the Private Equity panel chaired by Ambient Insight’s chief research officer Sam S. Adkins.

Sam Adkins, Ambient Insight's chief research officer

Sam Adkins, Ambient Insight’s chief research officer

Sam reported to conference attendees that as of mid-September, investment totals for learning technology products and services for 2013 stood at $950 million—with $57 million just in the two weeks preceding the conference.

  • Download the whitepaper “The 2012 Global Boom in Learning Technology Investments” and Sam’s slides  on investment patterns, including 2013 investments, from the Ambient Insight Resource Library: www.ambientinsight.com/News/PublishedContent.aspx.

Ambient Insight

The panelists offered insights into the dynamics of the ed tech investment world, including their firms’ different approaches, and provided valuable guidance on “what works” (and what doesn’t). Mr. Erbman reported that his firm takes a minority position and looks for established firms with positive cash flow and high growth rates. Mr.Levy’s firm targets “distressed education businesses” and innovative startups, and often takes a “slight majority” position. He also spoke emphatically that his firm was not interested in companies that offered “technology without pedagogy.”

Both panelists agreed with the impact of the new worldwide trend to alternative funding that Ambient Insight has been tracking for several years: the growth of new incubators and accelerators, and of crowdfunding. Mr. Erbman noted that crowdfunding is emerging as a viable funding alternative for startups.

For example, in 2012, Mango Health was one of 14 startups included in Rock Health’s 4th annual accelerator class. Mango Health did well in school: in 2013 they launched their medical adherence edugame with $3.1 million in funding.

The JOBS Act directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to remove the 1933 ban on advertising publically for investors will figuratively jump-start (pun avoided) more crowd funding and level the geographic playing field. According to crowdsourcing.org, crowdfunding platforms raised a total of $2.7 billion in 2012, an 81% increase over 2011.

Ironically, the new rules on crowdfunding became official on September 23—the last day of the EdNET conference –a place for an exceptionally networked crowd.

 
 
Ambient Insight

GSMA’s Mobile Asia Expo – #3

Continuing on about the Connected Living Asia Summit mEducation session at GSMA’s Mobile Asia Expo that Ambient Insight’s Sam Adkins and I attended in Shanghai (this is #3 on that topic)…

if you want to see the slides I presented at the invitation-only session, you may download them http://www.ambientinsight.com/Resources/Documents/AmbientInsight-Mobile-Learning-GSMA-Shanghai-June-2013.pdf (1.3MB PDF Document)

…I’ll share highlights from four other presenters about Mobile Learning reach and partnerships, which are two themes that ran through most of the mEducation speakers’ comments, and something from the Expo.

Kristin Atkins, Senior Director, Wireless Reach, Qualcomm talked about the company’s Wireless Reach project (which reaches 33 countries with 84 projects). “For many, the first and only computing experience will be mobile.” For their Singapore WE Learn project, Qualcomm partnered with a number of organizations (Microsoft, Nan Chiau Primary School, National Institute of Education, Nokia, SingTel, and the University of Michigan) to provide 3G-enabled smartphones, connectivity, and apps for students and teachers. Atkins also announced a collaboration with Sesame Workshop and others in China.

Sesame Street's characters meet children

Sesame Street’s characters meet children

Anita Stewart, Senior VP Strategic Partnerships and Development at Sesame Workshop claims that Sesame Street is the “single largest informal educator of children in the world,” and given their reach (16.5 million kids and parents each quarter) with 60 apps, including foreign language apps in Dutch, German, Hindi, Mandarin, and Spanish) and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center Research, no one is going to quarrel with that.

On July 24th, a partnership of Sesame Workshop, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, China Telecom, and China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) launched “Let’s Get Ready,” a disaster-preparedness app featuring Sesame characters for children and parents in China.

Qualcomm, Sesame Workshop, and other partners release "Let's Get Ready" app in China

Qualcomm, Sesame Workshop, and other partners release “Let’s Get Ready” app in China

Stephanie Orlino, Education Program Manager from Smart Communications (Philippines telecom) spoke of her company’s partnership with the Philippine Ministry of Education’s Department of Education Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems (BALS) to roll out Mobile Learning by bundling a device with connectivity and content. Their target audience is school dropouts, out-of-school youths, working Filipinos, and senior citizens. On the content side, they have ported third party content into the SMS format; and also reformatted old SIM cards for use as memory devices, then preloaded them with eTextbooks.

David Topolewski, CEO of QooCo, a “global mEducation solutions provider” that offers digital language learning solutions (ever more important in this increasingly connected world) also spoke to partnerships. QooCo created a revenue sharing partnership with Samsung that allows Samsung to sell their devices with the QooCo app preinstalled. QooCo hosts, supports, updates, and “improves continuously.” The value of the service to Samsung is product differentiation and the value to the telecom is selling more data, ARPU uplift, reducing churn, and opening up new market segments (young subscribers).

On the topic of revenue sharing in general, we at Ambient Insight have already noted a wide disparity of revenue sharing arrangements between content developers and their partners, unlike the clearly delineated arrangements for selling apps through the Apple, Microsoft, and Android app stores.

GSMA's Ronda Zelezny-Green and Ambient Insight Tyson Greer at Mobile Asia Expo

GSMA’s Ronda Zelezny-Green and Ambient Insight Tyson Greer at Mobile Asia Expo

After the Connected Living Summit,  Sam Adkins (Ambient Insight’s Chief Research Officer) and I toured the expo–well, some of it–it was ginormous and thousands of people worked their way past booths of new mobile phone devices, crowded into gaming areas, and explored the large Connected Living display area itself–where we ran into Ronda again.

One of the things that caught my eye at the Expo was SK Telecom’s newly release “learning robot,” named Atti that the telecom plans to release in September in their market. With a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone on top of his head (literally), this  educational tool/toy can sing, dance, “see,” and speak.

SK Telecom's learning robot Atti reads a card

SK Telecom’s learning robot Atti

With an optical sensor built into its “nose,” the robot can read cards via Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform and say the word out loud. This has to be one of the most unusual personal learning devices we’ve seen yet–and the number are growing rapidly–80 new ones at last count. There is more about this topic in Sam Adkins’ 2012-2017 Mobile Learning market reports.

You can view summaries and download free abstracts of our Global Mobile Learning Research http://www.ambientinsight.com/Reports/MobileLearning.aspx. We launch the regional reports first and as of this writing, we’ve released the Latin America, North America, and Asia ones.

GSMA’s Asia Mobile Expo – #1

Mobile Asia Expo 2013-06-26 029_crop (2)

Last month, Ambient Insight’s Chief Research Officer Sam Adkins and I traveled to China to deliver a presentation at an invitation-only meeting of GSM Association’s (GSMA) mobile network operators (MNOs) and to attend the 3-day Connected Living Summit that GSMA organized in conjunction with their Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai.

(This new event is the GSMA’s Asia version of their Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona each year.)

Given the Asia region’s explosive interest in mobile (which we’ve detailed in our recently released Mobile Learning in Asia report 2012-2017), it’s not surprising that attendance at GSMA’s Mobile Asia Expo and Conference climbed over to 20,000 this year, up 30% from their inaugural year.

2013-06-24 002_Sam_crop (3)The Asia region is experiencing a boom in Mobile Learning: we forecast the highest growth rate (17.3% of any region in the world. We find China is a particularly interesting market for Mobile Learning–with their rising consumer class and recent announcement of the Chinese government’s decision to accelerate their 4G license allocation.

It’s going to take me a couple of blog entries to share what we learned.

Richard Cockle, GSMA’s Connected Living Program director, opened the closed session (for GSMA members) and introduced speakers Wing K Lee, CEO of YTL Communications (Malaysia telecom) and Willie Cher, Head of Nokia Life, China; both spoke about their highly successful projects.

  • YTL just received a Malaysian government tender (Sam checked: $465 million for the first five years) to deploy their 1BestariNet platform—with content from Khan Academy, British Council, TED, Coursera, and Crash—across every school in Malaysia. That’s 400,000 teachers; 6,000,000 students, and 4,000,000 parents—quite an ambitious 15-year project. But then, YTL claims to be the largest 4G network in all of southeast Asia and covers 85% of Malaysians.
  • Nokia Life, an SMS learning service that’s either preloaded (free) on Nokia devices or downloadable for a fee, now has 100 million users, up from 78 million in September 2012 across Asia and Africa. Equally impressive is their 72% retention rate—very unusual. This far reaching information service focuses on education, health, agriculture, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and women.

We provided insights on key catalysts, new revenue streams, and business opportunities; and contributed market sizing in the Asia Mobile Learning market.

Shanghai 1st morning 2013-06-21 013I have to mention that Shanghai is a splendid, sprawling, surreal city with an 11-route smoothly functioning subway system (of which, as a resident of the Seattle area–a city with no subway–I was truly envious). It has a  great user interface so it was easy to traverse 3 subway lines from the hotel in the old town area across (well, under) the Huangpu River, to the Expo site in the newly-sprouted Pudong trade and finance area. Unfortunately, even a fast subway system or Maglev train couldn’t connect us to Ambient Insight’s Advisory  Group member Aaron Pulkka (Chairman of Metal Rabbit games, China) who was briefly in Shanghai.

PleaseCherishTheGrassCompared to almost anywhere on earth, Shanghai is a huge city–with over 20 million people (Walking on the Bund one night, I think we saw most of them.) But still, there is a gentleness in the city.

Next up: More about GSMA’s mEducation session…

Tyson

CEO Ambient Insight

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