Rory Nath’s Insight from Bett (Part 1)

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Another year, another chance to survey the market at Bett. It was a pleasure to share thoughts with leaders in the edtech community, who were as energised and inspirational as ever.

The first thing that struck me was the prominence of multi-brand edtech platforms. UK household names really dialled up their presence and were standing shoulder to shoulder with their American cousins, and it’s worth drawing out two distinct strategies that are beginning to prove themselves in the UK.

The rise of multi-brand platforms

Channel strategy: schools buy from brands they trust and we are seeing groups begin to successfully leverage a central brand to act as a channel for other products. The natural place to start is typically MIS, as the heart of the school management ecosystem. This was the path followed in the US with platforms such as Powerschool building out their proprietary product suite at the same time as distributing third party products in a partnership model. However, in the UK we’re seeing multiple start points being successful. For example, from a market leading position in teacher recruitment, Tes has built a compelling product wheel around learning management and back-office administration software. The challenge in this strategy is maintaining the quality across point solutions to match the breadth of the overall offering, but the reward for getting it right is significant.

Family of brands: we are seeing platforms addressing a discrete problem space with multiple independent brands. A shout out to Wonde for the impressive suite of solutions around school data management and security, and for having the best-looking stands of the day Wonde, Secure Schools and mylogin! This strategy has the benefit of multiple entry points to start a relationship with a school, with the opportunity to build out across a broader integrated solution over time. With a tighter product portfolio, achieving back and mid office synergies is also more straightforward, for example sharing development resource across products.

Done in the right way, with a considered strategy, we see multi-brand platforms as an attractive route to build scale in the UK. There is also plenty of room for more winners here. For example, we see high potential for platform strategies in the digital learning content space.

Focus on impact to stand out

My first observation should take nothing away from the fact that UK edtech remains a highly fragmented market. It’s all the better for that diversity and dynamism. Bett was, as always, full of start ups, scale ups and new international entrants. The big question for emerging products remains how to stand out from the crowd.

As expected there was a lot of buzz around AI this year with many businesses keen to show their wares with a tech-led sale. However, cutting through the noise on this basis alone is near impossible. At the end of the day, you’re competing for attention with the likes of Meta and their mixed-reality chemistry lab (which was very impressive, to be fair).

We are great believers in cutting edge technology as the great enabler for the next generation of educators. But we (and they) are focussed on the real-world problems that products are solving in the classroom. Ultimately this is the only way to encourage school leaders to find budget in a budget constrained world.

It helps if the solution is aligned to a high-priority issue, which we saw first hand as CPOMS helped raise safeguarding standards across the country. Other items we see at the top of the agenda at the moment are teacher retention and engagement, attendance, behaviour, SEND provision and English as an Additional Language.

In all cases, businesses should be looking to build an objective fact base around the impact they deliver. We’ve seen this be particularly effective when combined with endorsements from high-profile educators.

Rory Nath, ECI

About the author

Rory Nath

"I am a member of ECI’s Investment Team, a former member of ECI’s Commercial Team and once upon a time, I was a strategy consultant at OC&C. Across my career, the most rewarding experiences have been about finding exciting growth opportunities and helping great management teams to deliver against them."

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