By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
At the event, Norwegian Consul General Morten Paulsen spoke briefly about the growing Oslo-Austin relationship. Norwegian-Texan shared interests have historically focused on oil and gas, but he was happy to be involved in supporting the connection between startup ecosystems—in particular edtech, an arena where Norway hopes to become a global leader.
Among the issues of launching a successful edtech company is that different school districts and countries have different procurement policies regarding what resources they will use in their districts, said Scott Lipton, co-founder and CEO of EdTech Action. Sometimes teachers have the freedom to experiment with products that don’t cost the school money but often there is a long buying cycle that lasts the entire school year, which presents a challenge to startups and potential investors.Some companies, like Norway’s Kahoot!, are able to grow their product successfully by giving it away to teachers and school districts. Others, like Norway’s DragonBox games that teach even very young children algebraic and other mathematical concepts starting with images rather than numbers, go straight for the parent market and bypass the tricky school procurement system.
Among the companies that presented from Austin were 3 Day Startup, PenPal Schools, which connects students from over 100 countries to take courses together. ScribeSense, which automatically grades paper-based assessments with 99% accuracy. SchooLinks, which helps connect high school students with colleges that would better suit them, and Globaloria, a platform that teaches coding and STEAM skills through the design, creation, and publication of educational video games.
Two of the Norwegian companies, Kahoot! and Clarify–a service that provides interactive digital dictionaries with content from publishers like Merriam-Webster and Collins—have offices in Capital Factory. Other companies that presented included Creaza, which allows learners to create mind maps, presentations, comic strips, cartoons, movies and audio productions, and Kikora, a learning tool for mathematics instruction. The Norwegian group also included The Urban Legend comic books about a superhero who fights against poverty, injustice and discrimination. Ediphy, which helps students all over the world connect around topics they’re studying through a social platform, was co-founded by the youngest member of the Norwegian team, Maiuran Loganathan, age 17. Loganathan’s parents are from Sri Lanka where good education is less accessible than it is in Norway. They fled Sri Lanka’s civil war in the 1980s and accepted the offer of airline tickets from a friend who had been going to Norway.
“If that one tiny circumstance hadn’t happened, that they came to Norway, I would never have had the opportunity to have the education I have. That made me want to create a company,” he said.
Hege Tollerud, CEO of Oslo’s Edtech Cluster, said that forging the partnership with Austin was helpful because of introducing companies to one another’s markets. But also for other reasons.
“It’s not just about sales and users but also about taking advantage of each other’s experience and knowledge. Coming to events like SXSWEdu, you step outside your normal environment and encounter people and ideas that you normally would not have the opportunity to encounter.”