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Here at Pollenizer, we are doing more and more work with big companies who are facing digital disruption and want to apply our startup science at an enterprise level, to stimulate more entrepreneurial thinking and help them create innovative new, customer-centric product and business units.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to identify a few of the key industries at various stages of disruption and drill a bit deeper into the challenges and opportunities that may present over the coming years.

Today we will focus on a sector that is close to my heart, education. But first, some context…

Short Fuse, Big Bang

I have touched on Deloitte’s Short Fuse, Big Bang paper before in the context of disruptive innovation.

Their introductory video is a bit kitsch, but it sets the scene for how this digital transformation will impact businesses and government. With Deloitte predicting that 65% of Australia’s economy faces significant disruption by 2017, the size of the prize is HUGE. What I am most interested in, though, is the industries which face the “biggest bangs” – the following matrix is particularly informative.


You can see Education up there in the “Long Fuse, Big Bang” quadrant, although with escalating cost pressures and further Government deregulation, not to mention innovations like MOOCs Khan Academy and Coursera changing the way we deliver and consume educational content on a global scale, one might suggest that the fuse is burning away faster than the incumbents think.

Like health and transport services, education is something we all need at various stages of our life and it is principally provided by Government. That means that change might happen slower than in other industries, but when it does the implications are BIG (just ask the taxi industry!)

So, let’s step back and think about exactly what education is; which elements of the education process work well and what is arguably broken; where the opportunities might arise…

For mine, education is the process by which we receive information, come to understand it, are assessed on our knowledge and ultimately receive a form of certification – something which tells others that we know what we’re talking about when it comes to [insert your qualification here]. Framed another way, the key elements of education are therefore:

  1. distribution of content;
  2. processing and augmenting that content, eg. by discussions with peers;
  3. assessment; and
  4. accreditation

The Great Unbundling

I am sure you can think of various startups, websites and mobile apps which focus on one stage or another of the education process, gradually picking it apart… What we are seeing here, then, is what my favourite VC and blogger Fred Wilson identifies as a key macro trend – “unbundling”.

We have already seen it in media, with the unbundling of news and advertising destroying some business models and creating new ones. But what does it mean for education?

Think about the traditional educational institution and what comes to mind? Big, expensive buildings; expansive campuses; rigid class timetables and assessment rubrics; one-size-fits-(almost-)all learning; teachers who are either under-appreciated (think primary and secondary school) or more interested in their academic research than their students (university); a “Ps get degrees” mindset…

Does anyone else smell an opportunity there?

What are you gonna do about it

If you are at all interested in the education segment then you should check out this announcement from Startup Weekend last week:

Today, the Startup Weekend Education team and UP Global are excited to introduce Startup Education, a comprehensive set of programming specifically built for those interested in innovating education. We’ve also just kicked off an exciting new partnership with Edsurge, the leading source of news and resources on education technology…

And if you happen to live in Sydney then you can get “down and dirty” as soon as this coming weekend, with Pollenizer partnering Muru-D to support Australia’s first Startup Weekend EDU event. Taking place at Muru-D’s coworking space in Paddington from Friday 26th – Sunday 28th June, the event will focus on solving educational issues through new business discovery. One of our Senior Startup Coaches and star blogger Steve Sammartino will be leading the hackathon, providing mentorship for all teams in attendance. Final tickets are available here.

Image Credit: Sharon Drummond

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