What are your goals for investing into education? Social, impact, financial return?
We are focused on supporting entrepreneurs developing innovative approaches that will help raise the quality of education at scale in a sustainable way for underserved learners and disadvantaged youth and communities. Our sector-based approach and hybrid investment structure allows us to make equity investments or provide grants depending on the problem that the entrepreneur and organization is trying to address. Creating a resilient and vibrant eco-system that is focused on outcomes and supports innovation in the education sector is a priority at Omidyar Network.
Many market entrants find investing into education for the first time a challenging market. What top five factors would you recommend new investors consider before investing into education in Africa?
- Work with good co-investors who will add non-financial value
- Be clear about the investee’s path to scale
- Make sure investees have local talent and advisors
- Be patient and provide human capital support
- Make sure you understand the context well
How does doing business in Africa differ to the other markets that you have worked in?
The biggest difference is in the consumer base, the middle-income consumer base is smaller than in many other parts of Asia and Latin America. High data costs are also a factor in many parts of Africa. But, we have come across quite a few similarities as well- passionate entrepreneurs innovating very exciting models, many of them will be socially relevant.
Numerous entities have preconceived ideas about investing in education. What’s the greatest misconception about investing in education, and what’s the reality?
The greatest misconception is that there are “silver bullets”. Education is a complex service delivery business.
Which geographies hold the greatest potential for investment?
The geographies we follow closely are South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and parts of Nigeria. We are also watching Ethiopia. But there are entrepreneurs in other parts of the continent that are building interesting businesses that will cross borders, so we keep our radar on!
Early years vs K-12 vs Higher vs Vocational – Where is the greatest need and where’s the best return?
Sadly, the need and challenges are prevalent across the whole life-cycle of learners. The revenue, cost and regulatory dynamics are different across these segments but interesting businesses are being built in all of them.
Bricks and mortar vs educational technologies? Which sector will attract the greatest investment in the future?
We don’t think of them as being “versus” – the last mile is key even for ed-tech companies. They do have different capital requirements though. Good ed-tech is a non-trivial thing to execute, and needs venture investors. Bricks & mortar will need debt capital to start flowing because capital-intensive businesses cannot grow just on equity – but customers value education, and the sector’s cashflows are more stable than many might think.
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $760 million to for profit companies and non-profit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Education, Consumer Internet & Mobile, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. We adopt a sector-based approach to investing. Till date, we have invested, via equity and grants, in 24 organizations in the education sector across India, South East Asia,Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and The United States of America.