Adjacent to the Helsinki University’s Department of Teacher Education, housed at the same University campus that once hosted Finland’s first particle accelerator, xEdu is firing up the first ed-tech accelerator for startups in Northern Europe.
The education system in Finland has famously high rankings in world education polls. While it might seem like Finland’s crown jewel should not be tampered with, the Finnish government has been making cuts in educational funding in the name of austerity, and has earmarked an additional €300 million for digitalization. This means, according to Antti Korhonen, CEO of xEdu, that education is ripe for disruption, and now is the best time than ever to establish an ed-tech startup.
As Antti points out, “21st century skills can’t be taught with 20th century pedagogy in a 19th century industrial-age classroom. School should be a service, not a place. But having said that, it’s not intended for the classroom to be wiped out completely but to be one of the places where learning happens.”
Creating success stories in ed-tech
Antti Korhonen says that xEdu is in the business of creating success stories for education companies, and 10 startups have been selected for participation in their first accelerator program.
To be eligible, the companies go through the requisite screenings to satisfy the minimum viable product required for inclusion into the program. “But the most important selection criteria is still the talent team behind the product,” says Antti. After acceptance, entrepreneurs have access to mentorship from those in the know from the tech, business, and education communities. Mentorship is often the critical element in getting past the startup “valley of death”, by assisting in getting products and services into tip top shape before they are unleashed into the world.
Startups succeed better in good ecosystems
Antti believes that start-ups have a much better chance of succeeding in good ecosystems, and the xEdu team are endeavoring to develop a holistic view on how to work within startup ecosystems, including the government authorities, educational institutes, and large companies that are part of the education sector.
xEdu is located in deliberate proximity to the University of Helsinki, to get access to the knowledge behind the university’s walls.
Thus far, the first accelerator program has been running for two month with the second round of applications due for appraisal at the beginning of June this year. Antti concludes, “Now that the program is running, we really want to start trying to put our main focus on investments.”