Smart Cities are hubs for edtech startups

Smart Cities: Top 5 Hubs for EdTech Startups

Just as becoming green was once at the top of lists for city planners and leaders, becoming “smarter” is the current trend. With a rapidly increasing population, the challenge is not only to accommodate the present generations, but also to ensure that cities can meet the demands of future.

Boyd Cohen, an urban strategist who’s worked with and written extensively on the subject of defined smart cities as those which “use information and communication technologies (ICT) to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint—all supporting innovation and the low-carbon economy.”

Essentially, a smart city is environmentally conscious, tech-savvy, and devoted to bettering the lives of all current and future residents.

There are many aspects to a city that need to be addressed, and depending on the location and needs of the population, each city may direct its focus on a slightly different problem. Cohen put together a “Smart Cities Wheel” in 2012 that gives a quick overview of all the different sectors, and the characteristics that indicate smarter thinking.

Two of the criteria—Smart People and Smart Economy—reveal a huge margin for growth within the education technology field. For those venturing into the world of EdTech startups, smart cities are the best place to start innovating. Though in the 2014 version of the wheel, “Opportunity” replaced “Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” and “21st Century Education” was broadened to “Education,” they both still represent the same ideas. In another article, Cohen considers the importance on engaging citizens in this pursuit of smarter cities, suggesting that in order to truly advance, developers, planners, and the consumers must work together. Once again, this is something all EdTech entrepreneurs need to keep in mind: whereas a technology-driven product or service will impress the tech geeks, it’s the educators and students who need to be roped into the brainstorming process so that the end goal of “21st century education” is achieved.

Though there are EdTech hot-spots emerging up all over the world, these five North American cities have already taken great strides in furthering the use of technology and innovation in the education industry, and have an established market of investors, developers, and consumers constantly looking for the next technology to create and use. As is the case with most, if not all, the cities on the list, incubators are the driving force behind the surge in edtech startups. Devoted to providing new companies with expert guidance, capital, and networking opportunities, they create small communities of like-minded innovators, allowing the to grow and feed off each other.

New York City, NY

NYC, NY
Pros

According to Cohen’s ranking of the top 10 smart cities in the world, New York is one of two North American cities in the list, at fourth place (Toronto is second). In a city all about growth, creativity, and technology, it’s no surprise that NYC is a front-runner in the edtech world.

Cons

Since there are already so many edtech companies there, its vital that newcomers to the industry have something immensely creative and original to offer.

Silicon Valley, CA

Apple Headquarters
Pros

As the hub for startups of all kind, it’s natural that that so many edtech companies have come up in the technology hub of San Francisco. The last few years saw a sudden boom in newcomers born in the heart of the Silicon Valley, as entrepreneurs collectively turned their gaze to the industry of education technology products and demands. It’s a community of startups and everyone there remembers the struggles of beginning something new so finding generous investors is potentially easier here than elsewhere.

Cons

In such a technology-driven region, it could be easy to fall into the trap and forget about education component. Though the area boasts some major higher education institutions, reports show that K-12 public schools in the area are still lacking in some aspects.

Boston, MA

Boston, MA
Pros

There’s an immensely large market of educators and institutions in Boston, making it perfect for testing new products and hearing the voices of every perspective impacted by changes in the edtech industry. It’s a small city, making it a large, but close-knit community of startups. There a lot of advisors available to provide guidance, and it’s an easy place to create and maintain connections to the industry at large.

Cons

Since there are already so many EdTech companies there, its vital that newcomers to the industry have something immensely creative and original to offer. The small community offers a lot, but it makes the game more competitive.

Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, MA
Pros

It’s a relatively new, and a bit of a surprise in the list of rising edtech cities, even though it does have a history of successful education technology companies. While it’s still doesn’t draw as big of an edtech community as the other cities on the list, there’s a lot of potential for growth here. There’s a also a very strong movement among the teachers and educators here to be a leading force in education, and they’re very invested in using technology to their advantage.

Cons

Since there are already so many edtech companies there, its vital that newcomers to the industry have something immensely creative and original to offer.

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL
Pros

There’s an immense network of edtech investors and startups in Chicago, and it’s a city that’s always looking forward to the future of technology. It’s also not just about math and science here. Startups like ThinkCERCA are focusing instead on critical thinking and literacy. There’s a very receptive market here for entrepreneurs hoping to do something radically different that the status-quo in education-techonolgy.

Cons

Despite a good environment for the edtech industry in Chicago, many have complained of the state policies that deter digital learning which, in turn, hinders the general progress of Chicago-companies focused on education technology. Nonetheless, while those continue to lobby for new policies, there’s still room for growth and innovation.

 

It’s undeniable that technology and education are inevitable partners-in-crime for furthering child development, and edtech companies are beginning to gather force everywhere. Leaders who are embracing technology on a higher level to foster ‘smart cities’ are also creating edtech hot-spots, allowing for an environment of innovation, growth, and learning.

Suchita Chadha

Suchita Chadha

Suchita is a student at Emerson College, where she is pursuing a BFA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing for poetry with a Global & Post-Colonial Studies minor. She has been published in Verge Magazine (Canada) and Affairs Today (UK).