Jiva Technology

Aha! moments

Having been in and around start-ups for over 15 years now, I have gotten used to the common strands that run through all new businesses trying to break through with a new idea. On the downside, there is always the moment when you realise, “we haven’t got any money, how will we make payroll?” On the upside there is always the “aha moment”; the point when you realise that in a completely random conversation, the person you’re talking to has been moaning about a problem that your new solution could solve perfectly. I’ve found that in a good start-up, this happens a lot. It happened to me the other day, whilst driving. My nephew was sitting in the back seat, moaning about the fact that the snow would most likely stop him seeing his French tutor and that this was the fifth week they’d missed, because she’d been overseas the previous four. What both my nephew and his tutor needed was a reliable way to keep the tutoring going, even when they couldn’t be in the same place. In other words, they needed online tutoring. They needed Tutorhub.

Is it a boom? Is it a bust? No, it’s just the start of EdTech investment

It’s been widely reported that there’s been a boom in investment in the education technology (EdTech) sector; some have even suggested that following the boom we’ll soon see a complementary bust. I think this misses the point somewhat. We don’t tend to think of education as an industry that requires investment in ‘R&D’, possibly because the main provider is now the State itself (with 94% market share in the UK), but it’s an industry all the same and one carried out on a very large scale. In the UK, the education sector is nearly two-thirds of the size of the UK financial services industry. If you included ‘education exports’ it might be close to parity. That would probably come as a surprise to most people and when it’s put in those terms, the investment in new ideas and technology for the education sector suddenly seems paltry. I don’t have figures for the cumulative investment in start-ups and technology targeted at financial services, but I’m going to take a guess and suggest it’s a huge amount more than the recent EdTech investments.

But it’s not simply a question of under investment compared to the scale of the industry, because education is both ripe for revolution and the means to achieve it are at hand. In the last 15-20 years, we’ve built out this wonderful piece of infrastructure called the world wide web, to the point where it’s a perfect platform for delivering mould breaking educational services; something more profound than Wikipedia and Khan Academy. It took years for the US to reap all the benefits of their interstate highway investment and it will similarly take years for the full benefits of the internet to come through. But in education, necessity is the mother of invention. Governments want ¬†better educated populations that can compete in the global marketplace, but lack the financial resources to make it happen. They also lack the capability. Big improvements don’t come via the efficiency improvements that most Government organisations understand and seek. They come via a completely new and more effective way of looking at things.

This combination of the huge scale of the education sector, the comparative lack of past investment and desperate need for totally new thinking is what’s been driving investment in EdTech and is why the what we’ve seen so far will look like a small ripple compared to the tsunami of investment that we could see in the years to come.

Time to see a bibliotherapist

Over the Christmas break, I came across the beautiful idea of bibliotherapy, a philosophy that was popular with the Ancient Greeks and enjoyed a renaissance after the Second World War. In essence, if you, your friends or your children are struggling with one of life’s many problems, from teenage angst to hating your job, then there’s a piece of literature out there that will ease your pain. Bibliotherapy doesn’t involve a trip to the self-help section of your bookstore, but it does require you to find a good book that’s relevant to your/their life situation. There hasn’t been a huge amount of research on the topic, but it’s believed to help children build self-esteem and confidence; it may also explain the perennial popularity of Holden Caulfield. For those of you in London, The School of Life has launched a service recently.

One wish for the New Year

Can somebody please tell me what has happened to our local sporting heroes? As we sail into 2013, it would seem that the prefix ‘Bristol’, when applied to any sporting team, or the words City, Rovers or Rugby, signifies epic underperformance. Or perhaps I am missing something and in the sporting context, Bristol is derived from the Latin, meaning “team destined to prop up the others in whatever division they operate in”. I mean, come on, Bristol, we’re one of the richest and most interesting cities in the country. I remember football fans chanting, “if Lee Dixon can play for England then so can I”…. so if Swansea can get in the Premier League, so can we ….


Regus House
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Temple Quay
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