In an effort to drive forward Victoria’s positioning as the “education state”, social entrepreneur Aaron Tait is launching a new startup conference in Melbourne focused entirely on innovation for school students.
And the Victorian government is lending support, with LaunchVic granting the conference $87,000 in funding in February.
Edupreneur, which will be held on September 26 in Melbourne, is planning to give edtech founders from around Australia a chance to meet and learn from global leaders in the industry, including investors and entrepreneurs.
Among the guest speakers will be Beijing-based JMDedu partner Sophie Chen, who will talk about the great opportunity for Australian entrepreneurs to tap into China’s “ridiculously big” edtech industry, and Mathletics co-founder Tim Power, who “has raised hundreds of millions of dollars” for his edtech venture, says Tait.
“This is an opportunity to get hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors and education enterprises in a room,” says Tait, who is also the co-founder of Education Changemakers and YGAP’s Spark program.
A key focus of the event will be on connecting new and aspiring edtech entrepreneurs with the people, information and resources they need to navigate through the sector’s unique challenges, such as “understanding the sales cycles of schools” or “getting feedback from teachers”, says Tait.
Edupreneur will be part of a three-day festival run by Education Changemakers that will see edtech startups Down Under showcasing their innovations to thousands of teachers and parents at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton from September 25.
“Think South by South West but focused on education and really, really fun,” Tait says.
LaunchVic’s chief executive Dr Kate Cornick says Edupreneur will be an Australian-first.
“Melbourne is Australia’s education state, home to some of the country’s most exciting startups and leading educational institutions and schools,” Cornick said in a statement.
“It makes sense to launch the nation’s first education event focused on startups here.”
This month, Tait will be visiting regional cities of Warrnambool, Geelong, Shepparton and Mildura with his team to raise awareness about the edtech sector and the benefits its creating for schools across the state.
One example of this, he says, is Maths Pathway, an edtech startup founded by two public school teachers to help “plug those gaps” in children’s education as they progress from year to year.
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“They figured out a way to catch kids up in their mathematics,” says Tait.
As a result, he says, students who undertake Maths Pathway’s programs are learning at “double the speed of what the average Australian kid is doing”.
With support from Education Changemakers, Tait says Maths Pathway has grown to 25 staff and raised more than $600,000 in funding since it launched in 2013.
To ensure such initiatives are enjoyed and driven by teachers, students and entrepreneurs in regional Victoria as well, Tait says Edupreneur is offering scholarships to help cover the cost of attending the event in Melbourne.
With Victoria being home to some of the “most forward thinking schools”, Tait says with the right industry-specific ecosystem in place, the state can be a successful breeding ground for innovative edtech startups and entrepreneurs to connect, live and grow.
“Edtech is a really exciting sector,” he says.
“[Victoria] can’t take on Silicon Valley but we can get really good at something.”