In figures: Emerge Education in 2017

Looking back at the investments we’ve made and our companies’ success

At the end of each year, there comes a spate of articles celebrating the ‘edtech trends’ of the past (or, alternatively, the next)12 months. Some are better and some are worse, but most aim to summarize the enormous complexity of the edtech landscape in a few hundred words. (With the erstwhile exception, of course, of Audrey Watters’ annual Hack Education series).

As an active seed investor in edtech, our view of the market is driven first and foremost by our experience of scouring the world for promising early-stage companies and learning from their track record. With that in mind, we will forego the traditional list of trends and focus instead on that experience — the companies we have invested in this year and the performance of our portfolio.

In 2017, Emerge Education invested a total of over £900,000 in 14 companies from 6 different countries & 4 continents.

We believe that the most commercially viable and sustainable businesses in edtech hold a key advantage over competitors by either creating significant network effects, so that the user experience and the quality of insight improves exponentially as the product grows, or by delivering the right content at the right time and becoming strong, trusted brand names in niche areas (content unbundling). In the past year, we have invested in both kinds of companies from across the education landscape, with a majority of companies (9) in the former category. If you’d like to know more about each one, there’s a full list of our 2017 investments at the bottom of this post. For the rest of you, we thought we’d share a few brief thoughts on what we’ve seen this year. These are not ‘edtech trends’, but they are trends for Emerge:

  1. Things are heating up in higher and further education, long seen as the hardest market in edtech. Students are paying attention to the digital experience of their time at university and the shortcomings of legacy systems are becoming glaringly obvious. As a result, the majority of our investments in 2017 were in startups working in HE and FE, from peer-to-peer international recruitment to products developed for schools finding new markets in colleges—35% in 2017, as opposed to 30% for the portfolio as a whole.
  2. One long-standing—and often valid—charge against edtech has been that it introduces unnecessary complexity to the teaching process in pursuit of unproven benefits. In 2017, we saw new products finding a receptive audience by reducing complexity and focusing on doing a few things very well. Founders are showing it is possible to create delightful, engaging devices by getting rid of familiar affordances—like screens—where they get in the way; new approaches to teaching prioritize conversations over laborious record-keeping and simplify marking without leaving teachers in the dark or out of the loop.
  3. Almost two decades into the 21st century, an interest in ‘21st century’ skills on the part of both consumers and educators is creating new niches for edtech products. Some are upskilling African university graduates; others give children a sense of agency by showing them the creative side of technology. But early years education remains underserved by founders, despite research showing how crucial the preschool years are.
HE/FE is growing at the expense of K12, but early years is the smallest sector for early-stage edtech.

With another year behind us, we have much to look forward to: a new model for how we work with our startups, our 50th investment and 5th birthday in February, and plenty more exciting companies to engage with. But for now, let us know what your view of edtech in 2017 is—or read on for some facts and figures about Emerge in 2017.

The Emerge Education portfolio at the end of 2017

🏆 Total investment of £2m in 48 companies:

  • 57% are building network effects,
  • 43% are focused on delivering the right content at the right time.

💰 Since the time of investment, companies have raised close to £30m of follow-on funding—a 9x change for the 2014–16 cohorts.

🤝 Notable co-investors include Hambro Perks, Howzat Partners, Learn Capital, Local Globe, Nordic Makers, Oxford Sciences Innovation, Redalpine, Rethink Education, Team A, Y-Combinator, and Zuckerberg Media.

📈 The enterprise value of the portfolio has grown 3x since our investment.

👍 Emerge companies in the 2014–16 cohorts have seen monthly revenue growth of 23x and have added 5x more users since the time of investment, reaching over 7.5m people to improve their experience of education in every sector:

  • 10% in early years education
  • 40% in primary and secondary education
  • 30% in higher education and research
  • 20% in lifelong and professional education
Emerge companies are now reaching 7.5m users around the world each month

New investments in 2017: network effects


A conversational LMS alternative (higher education, network effects). Co-investor: NordicMakers.


Data science collaboration toolbox (higher education, network effects).


Diagnostic questions for homework and teaching (K12, network effects). Co-investor: Founders Factory.


Upending international student recruitment (higher education, network effects).


Lesson planning simplified (K12, network effects).


Unlocking the exchange of research-in-progress (higher education, network effects). Co-investor: Redalpine.


Compliance training and CPD platform (lifelong learning, network effects).


Helping students apply to the right course at the right university (higher education, network effects).


A clever speaker for kids with unrivalled audio content (early years, network effects).

New investments in 2017: content unbundling


Solving Africa’s skills problem (lifelong learning, content unbundling). Co-investor: Hambro Perks.


A chatbot for Asian languages (lifelong learning, content unbundling). Co-investor: Primer Ventures (South Korea).

Fire Tech Camp

UK’s leading provider of tech education for 9–17 year-olds (K12, content unbundling). Co-investor: Cass Entrepreneurship Fund.


After-school technology clubs for children aged 8–13 (K12, content unbundling).

Medics Academy

Healthcare education for medics at scale (lifelong learning, content unbundling).