Following the slew of recent startup acquisitions, pivots, closures, and resignations (along with a couple of emails from entrepreneurs hinting that their company is weighing some of these options), I thought I’d take a look back at the last few years’ worth of ed-tech startup history:
Who’s been funded? How much and by whom? What’s happened since? Who’s been acquired? Who’s pivoted? Who’s shuttered? Who’s got a (sustainable) revenue model? Who’s been in the headlines (and why)? Who’s been ignored by the press? Who’s been forgotten by bloggers and users alike?
Ed-Tech and Crunchbase
While far from the perfect source to answer these questions, Techcrunch’s Crunchbase does provide a decent amount of data about startups’ funding, staffing, and media coverage. Anyone can edit the Crunchbase database, so there are lots of gaps and messiness in the data. But (for better or worse) it’s a free, tech-community-supported effort — one that some folks worried would fall into disrepair after AOL acquired Techcrunch. (It does look like the company is putting some resources into Crunchbase, hiring developers and — gasp! — blogging.)
You can query Crunchbase directly through the website’s search interface (that works well for looking up a company or two), or you can utilize the API to pull the data you want.
Thanks to (a lot of) help from my partner Kin Lane, I chose the latter, pulling the data I wanted via the Crunchbase API . You can read Kin’s thoughts on working with the Crunchbase API here. He cites me as calling the process “tedious” — which if you know me is a well-censored description of how I’d describe the endeavor.
For my research, I pulled information on all startups tagged “education” that have been founded or funded since 2009 — the year when we started to see this recent resurgence in ed-tech entrepreneurship (as well, I confess, as the year that I founded this blog).
Crunching Startup Data
Based on Crunchbase data, I can give you the list of the startups who’ve received the most funding in recent years (I should note again, as I state above, that this is crowdsourced and incomplete data):
But that list is really not that interesting...
What I'm more interested in: what about those startups who’ve raised between $800,000 and $5 million since 2009? Where are they now? What are their prospects — for sustainability, for acquisition?
Other questions: which investors are “doing well” in ed-tech startup-land? Which investors are furthering which education policies (CCSS, NCLB, RTTT, etc) with their funding? In other words, does investment follow policy? Does investment lead policy? Are trends like “data-driven education,” for example. market-driven? Policy-driven? Investor-driven?
Which metrics are the startup ecosystem tracking that give us the wrong signals for which education startups are interesting or important or tranformative? Which signals do investors (and by extension Crunchbase and Techcrunch… to name a few) follow that do not mean much when it comes to questions of learning, equity, justice? (i.e. user sign-ups, funding amounts)?
And finally, how can I make my research on this topic more relevant? What questions should I be asking of the Crunchbase(ish) data? What questions does this data fail to answer? How can I make this research and data open and accessible to others?