PERSPECTIVE: EdTech Startups in Connecticut’s Educational Technology Ecosystem

by Supriyo B. Chatterjee, MSc MBA MA (Econ)

The post ‘Connecting Connecticut’s EdTech Community’ by Doug Casey (Executive Director, Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology)2 gave an overview of Connecticut’s EdTech ecosystem. It described the need to connect the various entities in the fragmented ecosystem to form an ‘Education Innovation Cluster’. This brief note provides a perspective on startup entrepreneurs who can provide innovative products and services in Connecticut’s EdTech ecosystem.

#EdTech ecosystem The establishment of the Connecticut Educational Software Hub3 is encouraging to an EdTech entrepreneur. It is a “market place” where vendors can offer their products to the educators in schools and colleges in Connecticut. Vendors can obtain reviews of their products and act upon the feedback for improvement and product growth. There is a need to incorporate the startups into the EdTech ecosystem in a more meaningful way. This entails an open innovation process4 and partnerships with educators and their institutions – technologies supporting teaching will provide more effective learning5.


Currently, there are over 70 Connecticut EdTech companies and a unified framework to collaborate, access to markets, and resources for their growth will greatly benefit the EdTech ecosystem. Generally, the EdTech market is segmented into three sectors: K-12, College, and Lifelong Learning. The Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges has a working group that examines Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education6. The EdTech market is large - US educational applications market is predicted to reach US$5.8 billion by 2019 7. In 2016, K-12 education made up about 79 per cent of the market and higher education 21 per cent8. There is a need for startup entrepreneurs to see all sectors in a holistic manner for market opportunities, startup growth, and partnerships in order to grow the ‘Education Innovation Cluster’.

Disruptive Innovation and Opportunities New teaching methods and issues in Personalized Learning9, STEM10, Blended Learning11, and Digital Equity12 bring opportunities to the entrepreneur. But solutions cannot be achieved without the collaboration of teachers13 and students14. New technologies can provide effective tools to improve outcomes in academic performance, productivity, and lower costs. These technologies require technical skills, opportunity assessments and risk management which can be attained by the cooperation within the EdTech ecosystem.

A new wave of technology brings disruptive innovation into the classroom that impacts learning and changes in the EdTech ecosystem:

  • AR/VR – Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality – The market for immersive learning is growing – by 2025, $700 million will be invested in AR/VR education applications15 and by 2021, about 60 percent of all US higher education institutions will be using virtual reality in the classroom16.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – This group of technology is expected to have an immense impact on education - “It is set to change not only what teachers teach but how they teach”17. Bill Gates sees it changing schools via personalized learning18.

  • Blockchain – Educational applications using Blockchain remains nascent with a few known applications that show potential in education19. In June 2018, the Connecticut legislature passed Bill SA 18-8 to study Blockchain20.

  • Cloud Computing & Online learning – Online courses (MOOCs) widens the access to education and helps mitigate costs. Opportunities exists to provide new educational content and blended learning with lower costs21.

  • Big Data and Analytics – Measuring effectiveness of educational programs and teaching outcomes calls for an unprecedented use of data and analytics22.

  • Gamification – An increasingly popular way to teach as shown by Microsoft’s ‘Minecraft’ system that is popular in the K-12 classrooms23.

Growing EdTech Entrepreneurship

Growing EdTech entrepreneurship can be done by building cooperative networks via programs and activities that bring technologists and educators together to explore innovation. The growth of EdTech startups in the cluster will be dependent upon a collaborative ecosystem that is open to innovation24 and entrepreneurship25.

The global EdTech market is growing26 that is giving individual startups tremendous opportunities world-wide27. The inclusion of `startup entrepreneurs in development programs is crucial to Connecticut’s economy. To include and give startup entrepreneurs access to resourcesand funding is important - this new entrepreneur-centered approach will assure growth of innovation in the EdTech ecosystem.


Supriyo B. Chatterjee is a consultant and entrepreneur, experienced in economics, heath care policy and enterprise innovation, based in West Hartford.  This testimony was submitted to the Connecticut Commission on Educational Technology on December 3, 2018.


1 West Hartford CT E: My thanks to Prof. Chad Ellis (Trinity College) for discussions during his graduate course in Education Policy (taken in the Fall 2018 semester). 2 Connecting Connecticut’s EdTech Community (April 27, 2018) 3 Connecticut Educational Software Hub 4 The Era of Open Innovation (MIT SMR Spring 2003) 5 Can Technology Reinvent Education? (Harvard Business Review, March 2011)

6 Higher Education Innovation & Entrepreneurship Working Group 7 Updated snapshot of the US EdTech sector in 2018 (22 October, 2018) 8 Ibid 9 Emerging Technologies Supporting Personalized Learning (May 24, 2018) 10 How Should We Prepare STEM Teachers? (May 1, 2018) 11 Blended learning emerges as a leading trend in education technology (Oct 6, 2016) 12 Digital Equity Toolkit - CT Educational Technology, December 2017 13 How To Find The Right Teacher For Your Education Startup (Forbes March 13, 2018) 13715c4b2ee5 14 If You Really Want to Design Useful Edtech, Start with Students 15 How AR and VR Will Revolutionize the Classroom (May 10, 2018)

16 More Than Half Of Colleges Will Use Virtual Reality To Enhance Education By 2021 (Forbes Oct 17, 2017) by-2021/#2a62cf936c48 17 The role of education in AI (and vice versa) - McKinsey April 2018 18 Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates (April 25, 2016) 19 What Type of Blockchain Would be Better for Educational Tasks? (July 10, 2018) 20 2018 CT Act 18-8 - An Act Establishing the Connecticut Blockchain Working Group (I had provided testimonial for this bill) 21 How Online Innovators Are Disrupting Education (Harvard Business Review, November 2011) 22 The Future of Big Data and Analytics in K-12 Education (January 11, 2016) 23 Game On: Teachers Should Continue to Gamify Classrooms (Sept 28, 2018)

24 The Era of Open Innovation (MIT SMR Spring 2003) 25 Guidelines for Local and State Governments to Promote Entrepreneurship (Kauffman Foundation, March 2015) to-promote-entrepreneurship 26 Global Report Predicts EdTech Spend to Reach $252bn by 2020 (May 25, 2016) 27 EdTech Investments Rise To A Historical $9.5 Billion: What Your Startup Needs To Know (Forbes Jan 26, 2016) needs-to-know/#6e2d50cc3a38

Infographic:  Guidelines for Local and State Governments to Promote Entrepreneurship (Kauffman Foundation, March 2015) to-promote-entrepreneurship