What's interesting about the state of software development today is you can actually create much more cheap, more powerful, comprehensive platforms in the relative vacuum of continental Europe. - Benoit Wirz
Our guest today is Benoit Wirz, a partner at Brighteye Ventures, the leading European EdTech venture firm.
In this episode, we talk about the evolving EdTech landscape in Europe as well as the unique attributes of rising European education companies.
Some quotes from our discussion:
09:14 - One factoid that I think is interesting is that, if you look at Germany in particular, Germany's largest economy in Europe, I think over half of school teachers in Germany, pre- pandemic, did not have a school email address. Right? So there's this huge gap in terms of at least where were teachers sort of time is being spent and, you know, that's obviously changed quite a bit.
11:38 - In the US the process took a lot longer and so you had this evolution of single-purpose tools that could do a very narrow thing. What's interesting about the state of software development today is you can actually create much more cheap, more powerful, comprehensive platforms in the relative vacuum of continental Europe.
17:08 - There is just a lot of money available here for post-secondary training, companies like YouSchool, which is a company in our portfolio. Essentially, in order to work in most artisanal industries in France in order to work in a bakery, in order to be a hairdresser, which is similar in a lot of countries, in order to work in a lot of these industries, you need a license, and so you need to pass a state test. What they do is offer an online way to train for those state tests, basically, and their passing rate is higher than the national average and the cost is cheaper and their experience is much more social because you're in a platform with a bunch of people. So you can imagine if you want to become a baker, one of the things you want to do is show people the mess that you put into the oven and ideally the beautiful thing that comes out of the oven. And get like a lot of encouragement from your peers. And so the platform itself is great, but I think one of the things that's helped accelerate YouSchool's growth is just that there is government financing available for a big portion of it for people who want to change careers and have been in the workforce for awhile. France is actually the most advanced economy in Europe, but increasingly Europe is falling France's model. And because both, they understand the need for alternatives to universities and because there's financing available, I think It makes it really possible to create quite big platforms that grow quite quickly here.
25:44 - Even if you're in the largest market in Europe, you're thinking about international from day one. People think about it much sooner than you would think. Really Seed, Series A stage companies are thinking about international expansion. The costs of expansion are relatively low to get to the next market. Interestingly enough, they prefer to just do the expansion, rather than to do a big study around which markets make the most sense. So they prefer to just launch the market, because honestly it's relatively cheap and you can spend as much time thinking about which market to expand to as you could just expanding to the market. And so they'd rather just run the test and that's something that honestly companies like Iron Hack which is a coding bootcamp in our portfolio, which is in six countries in Europe as well as two in Latin America in the US so they have quite a bit of experience in expansion, that's what their MO has been. They have a rubric that they use to analyze markets, but then rather than pay somebody to figure out whether this particular market is the greatest next big market, they just go and that's proven very successful for them.
28:08 - Learning communities as an approach is really interesting because the hardest thing, as you know, about learning anything is just sticking with it, right? That's the single hardest thing is just taking the hours, there's almost nothing that's worth learning that you can do in a short period of time. So you need a number of hours to learn worthwhile things and motivation becomes a real issue for almost everybody, myself included. One of the things, one of the few proven ways to keep people motivated is to be part of a community of people that actually are interested in learning the same thing as you are. And so while this might seem far removed from K-12 learning, it's actually not. We've invested in a company called StudyStream, essentially a platform where people can come together, mostly 13 Plus K-12 students and then university students, and you just kind of hang out in a Zoom room, or in a Discord with other people who are studying and you're not necessary even exchanging thoughts about academics, there's no academic value to the experience. It's really just a motivational value of being in a room with other people and then what they're doing is allowing people to form study groups if they want to, but most of the people today using the service, really interested in being in a place where they can go to study, physically in one place and then online with a bunch of people knowing that will keep them studying.
Here are some resources mentioned in our discussion:
- Citibank study citing the Edtech Opportunity Gap - https://www.citifirst.com.hk/home/upload/citi_research/eduAXO97.pdf
- YouSchool - http://youschool.fr
- Klassroom - https://klassroom.fr
- Brighteye Ventures open roles - https://www.brighteyevc.com/open-roles
Where to learn more about Benoit:
Where to learn more about Enrollhand:
Our webinar: https://webinar-replay.enrollhand.com
Our free Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/schoolgrowth/