Tech hub, CiTi recently launched the first EdTech Open Innovation Cluster and incubator in Africa. Ventureburn had the opportunity to sit down with the initiative’s lead, Jamie Martin, to discuss his thoughts behind the accelerator as well as edtech in general.
“I really believe that the developing world, in particular Africa, is firstly the place that edtech can make the most impact and is also the place where I think it’s going to be the most innovative. Secondly, I think that particularly in SA there is a unique combination, I call it ‘first world infrastructure, third world problems’.”
He further explained that data and connectivity issues surrounding edtech were also a major issue besides the general state of our education system.
“This (the accelerator) wouldn’t work in London because the problems aren’t there to solve and this maybe wouldn’t work in Sudan because you wouldn’t have the infrastructure to do it, so this was the perfect place (South Africa),” said Martin.
He also expressed that the project has already received support from local government and that elearning is one of the Western Cape Premier’s priorities for the government going forward.
The EdTech Open Innovation Cluster and incubator, according to Martin, has two goals in place.
“Our end goal is two things. Firstly, to have businesses go right across the continent. I don’t want startups that just think about SA… this is something where your technology can work all around the continent.
“Secondly I want an incubator that can go right across the continent. Our end goal is to have campuses here in SA, East Africa, and West Africa, so that wherever you are as an entrepreneur, you can go to one of our campuses and be part of the edtech incubator. But also that you can rotate around the campuses. It’s probably unrealistic for the first year, but that’s the goal,” continued Martin.
Edtech is fast becoming the new fintech, according to Martin
Mentorship will play a major part of the programme, according to Martin, who’s already sat down with many teachers and principals that are willing to be part of mentoring the startups.
“I was with a bunch of teachers and principals in Khayelitsha who all agreed that they’re going to be part of mentoring our businesses and trialling what our businesses create in their schools,” said Martin.
Some of the industry professionals Martin is looking to get into the programme includes lawyers, marketers, HR specialists, counsellors, and more.
The programme will aim to further prepare selected startups by teaching them how to measure staff and impact, as well as how to sell their products to schools. Furthermore, it’ll also provide startups with access to developers as well as funding.
As for the programme’s application criteria, they’ve deliberately left it as broad as possible.
“Any level of education from the earliest years of children to the oldest adult learner is eligible. You’ve just got to be making it (learning) different with tech,” said Martin.
“You can be very mature and you come to me and say ‘Jamie, I’ve got a seed fund, I’m doing really well, I want you to take me to a big series A and really expand my business outside of SA’. I also want the guy that turns up and says ‘look, I haven’t really attracted much funding because I don’t really know anyone like that, my mates mate who did some coding has built me this app’ and like the app is terrible but your idea is amazing and you’re amazing, we’ll take you on,” Martin added.
To Martin, edtech is not only as important as the financial sector, but is the new fintech.
“I think that fintech is great for an individual, you get someone banked in Africa, that’s a social good as well as an economic good, but with education, if you get someone a great education they can support a family and their community, it goes so much broader. So I actually think it should be the biggest priority area,” Martin concluded.