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EdTech News Roundup - Week of 10/18
The average D1 athlete now earns $471 from their "brand"
A few items this week:
Reader survey: starting next week, there will be a reader survey at the top of each email through ~Thanksgiving. I’d like to keep improving on this newsletter and have a few ideas, but need your feedback — please humor me!
End of year post: given December is usually a slow news month, I’m thinking of ending the year with a couple of posts on the state-of-play in different parts of the industry. If you’d like to suggest a topic, please fill out this form. I will also be looking for folks to chat off-the-record about each topic
EDUCAUSE: if you will be there, let me know! I live in Philly and am one of the judges in AWS’ startup pitch competition
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Wonolo raises $140M: Wonolo is a platform for gig economy workers that sits somewhere between a marketplace and a labor union - it counsels gig workers on appropriate pay for work and helps them find jobs, but does not offer community-wide benefits. I imagine that a platform differentiated by the power they give to workers is doing quite well in today’s challenging front-line hiring environment
SkyHive raises $40M: SkyHive is a “talent analytics” platform that helps employers make more informed choices about how they manage their workforces, specifically around internal training plans and competency-based hiring/promotion. VentureBeat points out that talent analytics is a burgeoning space, with Charthop, the Org, and Hibob all raising significant funding ($20-$100M+) in just the last ~3 months
PraxisLabs raises $15M: PraxisLabs makes Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) VR simulations for employers. Founded just two years ago, the company has a significant client roster, including eBay, Amazon, Google, Target, Etsy, ServiceNow, and Uber. PraxisLabs’ raise follows the $20M that Mursion raised in November 2020 with a similar go-to-market agenda
Doyobi raises $2.8M: Doyobi is a Singapore-based platform for professional development (PD) content and classroom resources, focused on SE Asia and MENA. PD feels like a good market to be playing in given the worldwide influx in government dollars allocated to technology in classrooms. I assume (but can’t quantify) that this technology spending has a corresponding allocation for professional development time and dollars
Newsela makes their first acquisition, HapYak: HapYak is a platform for “interactive video experiences”, focused on the enterprise market. At first glance, this is a bit of an odd fit, but it looks like this was largely an acqui-hire (terms were not disclosed). I also appreciate the begrudging approach to video taken by Newsela’s CEO, Matthew Gross, “I think a worst-case scenario are videos that don’t have a lot of rigor, and instruction videos that are really just all about engagement.” To be clear, Gross will be making his best efforts for this NOT to happen on Newsela
This week’s stories are about DAOs (a Web3/crypto term) and sports. These topics may not be immediately interesting to all of you, but both are relevant beyond their niches, to today’s world and to the future.
The war on talent is a business’ desire to “routinize” as many tasks as possible from its labor force, reducing its dependence on any one human and making labor interchangeable. I like this description because it shows a business’ drive to reduce (or at least fix) costs without putting “robots” at the center of the framework, instead centering the concept of abstraction from any individual laborer.
The war for talent is the flip side of this. With fewer individuals managing (and accountable for) the ship, the value of each one rises commensurately. We see evidence of this in the rising salaries of tech workers and corporate executives responsible for an increasing portion of the overall economy.
While intellectually interesting, neither of these concepts is novel. What the author, Dror Poleg, does bring to the table is a thesis for what equilibrium might look like - that a new organizational structure called a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) will allow premium talent to flit between the highest bidders, completing the highest-value tasks available without committing to a single organization. By the same token, DAOs would never have to pay more than market price to complete a task.
There is a lot to unpack in this, most notably the assumption that all projects can succeed when governed in a decentralized manner. I’m not here to declare a winner, but do think the concept of these two wars is central to the future of work.
Three months after it became legal for college athletes to earn money based on their name and image there is already a chasm between the earnings of the top 1% of athletes and everyone else. This is true at the sport level, with men’s football taking 60%+ of all NIL money. And it is true on the individual level, with stars like Alabama quarterback Bryce Young earning $1M+ from one sponsorship while the average NCAA Division I athlete earns $471.
Until this year, the NCAA promised a sense equality across college sports. Supported by Title IX, athletic departments had to spend equally between men’s and women’s sports and the number of varsity programs proliferated within athletic departments.
This sense of equality was absolutely false, with alumni boosters making up the difference to their sports of choice (mostly men’s football and basketball) with literal bags of cash, but it mostly kept the system working. Now it is being torn wide open, with player earnings in a (paywalled) trackable database.
While there have been a few intriguing arguments for the enablement of a new middle class of creators, the data from virtually all creator-led platforms to date suggests that this will not be the case. I expect that the trend towards a small set of athletes earning the vast majority of the NIL money will, if anything, get worse.
Amherst drops legacy preference in admissions, following a similar move announced in 2020 by Johns Hopkins. There is both an optimistic and a cynical way to look at this development in the college admissions world, fresh off the Varsity Blues scandal. The optimistic take is that elite institutions are recognizing their part in the shaping of society and doing their best to counteract rising inequality. The cynical take is that wealthy donors will still get their kids into whatever school they want, the ticket price is just going up. Both takes are probably a little bit true and a little bit false1
Holborton opens a Melbourne campus: the bootcamp market is in a tough place. Recent | news | in | the | space | is | almost | uniformly | bad. Holborton is, at least to external appearances, one shining light opening | campuses | throughout | the | world. The major difference is that Holborton operates a franchise model, a la McDonald’s, rather than the full-service model, like Chick Fil-A, offered by most other brand name bootcamps
The scourge of ParentPlus loans: ParentPlus loans are uncapped federal loans that parents (and graduate students) take out to finance post-secondary degrees. While this article takes aim at Baylor University’s encouragement of parent borrowing for undergraduate students, this problem is pervasive throughout Higher Ed
Career paths in the eyes of an investment manager: In this post, Graham Duncan writes about career pathways through the eyes of an investment manager. I appreciate that his framework focuses on the person’s mental grasp of the way their field works rather than on specific titles / responsibilities / income brackets / etc.
A $20B+ market for creator economy courses, sitting right under our noses: Argos, who I angel invested in and wrote about in September, got a profile in EdSurge. The article pairs well with community college blogger Matt Reed’s “there’s what you assign, and then there’s what they read”
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I work hard to stay neutral here, but it’s important to me that you all know my potential biases!
I say all this as an alum of Amherst College who is generally supportive of the decision