Our minds need broadening.
The well-worn view that Silicon Valley possesses the exclusive rights to innovation, for edtech at least, is becoming tiresome.
And with good reason.
Because the next big edtech revolution may not be coming from Silicon Valley, but from a deserted area of Southern Israel known as the Negev.
The business driving that revolution is MindCET, a spin-off from the 40 year old Israel Centre for Educational Technology (CET), a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of education in Israel.
“We call ourselves an innovation centre” explains CEO, Avi Warshavsky.
“Although we’re an accelerator, we do additional things that most accelerators don’t.”
MindCET hopes these additional things will help create a new educational paradigm.
By working in cahoots with the thriving Israeli edtech scene, independent tech entrepreneurs are connected with teachers, researchers and students in a collaborative manner to progress ideas.
Alumni of the program include CodeMonkey, a coding game that sees users write code to guide a monkey through crocodile infested waters to collect bananas.
Gradually increasing in difficulty, children are taught the fundamentals all the way through to advanced programming.
The company has experienced great success, having also gone through the prestigious Pearson Catalyst accelerator.
This is representative of a trend not just true of Israeli edtech startups, but of edtech startups across the world.
A huge number are placing students at the forefront of learning, enabling children to play a much more active role in defining the future of their own learning.
By placing students at the center of their learning experience, a new educational paradigm is created.
Long term effectiveness is ensured, students maintain engagement and passion is genuinely sparked.
“It will create better outcomes” explains Warshavsky.
Since the initial $30k seed investment in CodeMonkey, the quality of Israeli edtech startups knocking on Warshavsky’s door has only improved.
“Right now we are filtering our fourth cohort of startups, I’m finding it difficult to choose because the offering has improved so much.”
“I think Israeli edtech has a lot of potential. Israel has all the building blocks to become an interesting player in this market.”
It comes as a result of a “vivid and dynamic” Israeli startup scene.
Tel Aviv for example is already a leading global tech hub. Wired recently described it as the “exit nation”, with Israeli tech acquisitions and IPOs reaching $15 billion in 2014.
“It seems that every second person on the street is either in the midst of setting up a startup, or recovering from a failed startup. It is a great atmosphere to be a part of.”
The next stage, is taking these Israeli edtech companies global.
“Since Israel is a very small market, in language and so forth, most of our startups are looking globally. We try to create an efficient network with markets worldwide.”
What Israeli edtech can teach Silicon Valley
There’s a significant difference in the approach being taken by MindCET. One that Silicon Valley should take note of.
Rather than re-packaging something that has already been done, Warshavsky vehemently states:
“We are not looking for amplifiers of existing systems. Instead, we are looking for projects that have the potential to create deep change in the educational system.”
MindCET’s approach to Israeli edtech startups is set to create a new educational paradigm.
Rather than focusing purely on potentially high growth businesses, MindCET focuses on startups that it believes will create lasting change.
To put it succinctly: business models favored by Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs don’t always meet the needs of education overall.
Prolific investor Frederic Halley explains it perfectly:
“Silicon Valley entrepreneurs’ pitches are incredibly normalized, everyone knows that you have to come with certain numbers to the first meeting. And if you don’t come with those numbers, then you don’t really understand the game.”
Education isn’t a game. It isn’t about creating as much profit as possible in as shorter space of time, the delivery of a high quality product is essential.
It is for this reason that in many respects, education, technology and business don’t go well together. They are incredibly difficult to scale and get right.
Education underpins the global economy and helps people realize their true potential.
It is for this reason, that a long term view must be taken.