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ASU+GSV 2024: Secrets to Success in the Ed-Tech Market

Several CEOs in the ed-tech space led a webinar Monday at the annual ASU+GSV Summit about the challenges of staying competitive in an increasingly saturated and dynamic market.

From left, Ellucian CEO Laura Ipsen, CEO and co-founder Adrián Ridner, Noodle CEO and founder John Katzman, and Instructure CEO Steve Daly lead a webinar at the ASU+GSV Summit on Monday about the challenges of staying competitive in today's ed-tech market.
Screencap credit: Brandon Paykamian
According to a recent report from the market research company, the global ed-tech market is expected to grow more than 14 percent between 2024 and 2033 to reach nearly $550 billion as K-12 and higher education continues to become increasingly digitized. In the face of this growth, some ed-tech leaders expect the market could become increasingly saturated and competitive as the years go by, reinforcing the need to stay mission-focused, ready for a challenge and in touch with trusted partners.

The challenge of becoming and remaining a leader in today’s ed-tech market was a key topic during a Monday webinar at the annual ASU+GSV Summit, led by Ellucian CEO Laura Ipsen, CEO and co-founder Adrián Ridner, Instructure CEO Steve Daly, and Noodle CEO and founder John Katzman. Titled "Bring the Heat: Edtech CEOs on Scaling and Student Success," the discussion focused on the key concerns and considerations that come with scaling up ed-tech enterprises.

The panel noted that for ed-tech companies to be successful today, they should approach clients as partners engaged in a shared mission to address key challenges like learning loss and preparing students for the changing expectations of employers in a changing job market.

“You have to be solving a problem you care about and you're passionate about. You have to be able to have a solution or product that delivers outcomes, but [note that] when you're bootstrapping, you have less chances to fail. You don't have a cushion to fall back on, so you have to make sure you're really listening to your customer," Ridner said, touching on the need for partnerships to gauge schools’ needs. “That doesn't change as you get to $100 million or $300 million in revenue. … I think it's [about determining], ‘How do you connect with what you're doing? Why are you pursuing that problem?’”

Companies must also brace for changes to the market, as well as the ups and downs that can come with being a leader in that space, according to Ipsen, Daly and Katzman. The panelists noted that another challenge of growing an ed-tech enterprise is the need to maintain morale amid those ups and downs and the changing expectations of education institutions.

“I have to be nervous and fearful of being a market leader and [asking], ‘Who's coming after me?’ Everyone's coming after me, so when you think about it, at every level, you have to really challenge yourselves to be brave,” Ipsen said. “At the same time, ed tech and higher education is transforming. There's a lot of fear right now, but I think we have to stay focused on [our mission] — focus on students, focus on outcomes.”

Daly said it’s important for C-suite executives in ed tech to have trusted confidants and others inside and outside of their companies to help in both maintaining morale and driving new initiatives to meet education clients’ needs.

“One day you feel like ‘There's no way I'm going to lose. … We're just going to rule the world.’ And the next day you feel like, ‘There's no way we're going to win,’” he said. “It becomes a really tough place to be if you don't have an outlet and if you don't have a trusted adviser, a mentor or somebody to go talk to.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.