Unicorns and zebras: Understanding edtech startups as new actors in the field of digital education

This project investigates recent developments in the edtech startup sector. It conducted a team ethnography in a trade fair focused on edtech startups. What makes the edtech startup sector distinguishable from the general edtech sector, and how does it extract value from the educational sector? The study analyses the discursive construction of value through stories, rhetorical constructs, and sociomaterial artefacts. Results showcase different areas of value creation. First, we discern a very localized ‘geography of tech production’. Second, venture capital is made central in the education sector, by projecting future value into the present. Third, ‘meta-organizations’ create value by adopting intermediary positions. Fourth, the fair itself creates expert knowledge for startups.

Mathias Decuypere is Associate Professor at the Methodology of Educational Sciences Research Group (KU Leuven, Belgium). His main interests involve the digitization, datafication and platformization of education; and how these evolutions shape distinct forms of educational spaces and times.

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