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Navitas champions Aus edtech in US

Australia’s education technology sector is “well placed” to become a global leader and take on the US, Patrick Brothers, chief executive of Navitas Ventures, Navitas’ education investment arm, has argued.

NavitasASU+GSV summit in Salt Lake City (R-L) Riley Batchelor, CEO, EduGrowth; Jeremy Cooper, Managing Director UK, Europe and International Markets; Lucy Stonehill, CEO, BridgeU; Patrick Brothers, CEO Navitas Ventures, CDO Navitas; and Thomas Dretler, CEO, Shorelight Education discuss new models during the session “Scalable, Borderless Education”.

"We had a big US education company talk about Australia as a test-bed"

Brothers, who has led an Australian education innovation technology cross-country mission to the US coinciding with the ASU+GSV Summit in Salt Lake City, told The PIE News that despite technological advances in favour of the US, Australia’s quality of international education means it could “punch above [its] weight in edtech”.

“The US really isn’t that far ahead in terms of innovation and impact and Australia is incredibly well placed at being a leader in global innovation in education,” Brothers said.

“Because the US is bigger, and because of things like Silicon Valley, there’s an automatic assumption that the US is ahead. But we underestimate how advanced and how sophisticated Australian education is,” he said.

Regardless, Brothers cautioned that it will still be a difficult contest for Australia’s edtech sector against the US.

“The US really isn’t that far ahead in terms of innovation and impact”

Notably, the differences in size between the countries – the US attracts twice as many international students and has a population thirteen times larger than Australia’s – gives the US an advantage with more capital available to fuel start-ups.

Still, Brothers said the strength of the US’s popularity among international students against the strength of Australia’s industry creates an interesting contest.

“Education is Australia’s largest services export. The US is the most desired study destination. Who’s going to seize this global opportunity?” he asked.

While encouraging competition on a country-level, he said the education innovation mission aims to help Australian providers and start-ups forge partnerships with the US and tap into its experience and capital.

As well as bringing executives and entrepreneurs from Navitas-backed start-up accelerator, EduGrowth, Australian university representatives from Monash University, RMIT University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Southern Cross University and Charles Stuart University also participated in the mission.

So far, interest has gone both ways, according to Brothers. “We had a big US education company talk about Australia as a test-bed, because it’s small, it’s isolated from the noise of the US, but it’s similar in some characteristics,” he said.

As part of the mission, Navitas Ventures also launched the Global EdTech Census, to increase the amount of data available in Project Landscape, an online tool which maps the edtech sector around the world.

“Education technology is on pace to reach a quarter of a trillion dollars’ investment in the next five years,” said GSV Acceleration managing partner Deborah Quazzo in a statement.

“This open-source data will not only be essential for the larger community, but also for GSV as we continue to identify up-and-coming entrepreneurs and discover bold ideas around the globe.”

The census aims to increase Project Landscape’s dataset from 15,000 companies to 30,000 and increase its reach worldwide.

“We need to really understand what’s happening not just in the US and what’s happening in Australia, but what’s happening in China, India, Nigeria, Vietnam; what’s truly happening globally,” explained Brothers.

In addition to its edtech mission to the US, Australia-based Navitas has also prioritised US growth in its pathway division. In January, the company signed its eighth agreement with a US university, joining its arrangements in both Australia and the UK.

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