Author Archives: johnrichardmartin

About johnrichardmartin

CEO at Sanoma Learning

Thank You, Goodbye and Merry Christmas!

Christmas

Dear Friends and Colleagues at Sanoma Learning,

Passion for Learning

It has been an exciting sprint to the very end with the announcement of the acquisition of Clickedu in Spain this week, bringing not only a great new company into the family but also a bit of extra sunshine 😊. In the meantime this will be my last message to you all as CEO, with my 10 years at Sanoma coming to an end. I’ve loved leading our company and been inspired by the “passion for learning” that can be felt in the teams everywhere who have worked tirelessly to make a positive impact on teaching and learning. Thank you all for your dedication and excellent work!

Major transformation

Our company has gone through a major transformation during recent years:

  • Our reach has increased from some 10m to 15m learners and from 5 to 10 core countries
  • Our sales have increased from some €290m to close to €500m in 2020
  • Employment at Sanoma Learning has grown to almost 2100 FTEs
  • We have grown our market share and made great leaps forward on the digital transformation
  • We have delivered strong profitability and profit growth, amongst the highest in the industry
  • We have achieved good success in building one European company out of the 5 original units, through the High Five program
  • We have made a number of important acquisitions, this year adding Iddink Group, itslearning, Essener and Clickedu to the family.

This has been quite a journey and I believe we are well prepared and well positioned for the next phase of growth at Sanoma Learning. I see a bright future ahead for our company!

Thank you to the teams!

What I remember and appreciate most looking back at the last 10 years is the people: the friends and good colleagues I have made along the way. I feel a strong sense of dedication in our teams everywhere. People are eager to learn new things and looking to the futureStriving to do the right thing for education and for the company. Although it has sometimes been challenging, it has also been truly inspiring to work in an organisation with such commitment and potential.

I would once again like to thank each and every one of you for your dedication in doing a great job and moving Learning forward.  It has been a privilege to be able to lead this successful company and I would like to wish you all the best for the future. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter or reach out to me at johnrichmartin@gmail.com if you want to stay in touch.

Merry Christmas!

Finally I would of course like to wish everyone a well-deserved break and a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones! I hope you will have a wonderful time and get plenty of rest ready for an exciting new year ahead 😊. Cheers!

Looking forward >>

John Martin

CEO Sanoma Learning

Give the gift of education: www.camfed.org

 

Looking for new opportunities in education (technology)

Europe’s biggest edtech company

After 10 years at Sanoma, mostly leading Sanoma Learning, I’ve informed the company of my intention to move on as of spring next year, giving plenty of time to arrange a smooth handover to a successor.  Check out the press release of 13 November about it here.

Great place to work

It’s been an honour to lead Learning during this period, and I’m really proud about what the teams have achieved.  I love the dedication to learning that can be felt across the company and very much respect the commitment of our people to do a great job for pupils and teachers.

Growth and successful transformation

Our teams have achieved a lot of success in local markets and made great leaps forward on the digital transformation.  We have worked together intensively across the company on the High Five program in building one Sanoma Learning.  And we’ve completed a number of acquisitions including Sanoma Utbildning in Sweden, Tammi Learning in Finland, De Boeck in Belgium and and Iddink in The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.  We are now about twice the size we were five years ago.

Amongst the best performers in the industry

Today we stand as a very successful company.  We are positively impacting about 11m learners and 1m teachers in some of the World’s best education systems through a professional organization of some 1700 talented people. We are a frontrunner on the digital transformation, arguably Europe’s biggest edtech company today in terms of revenues and employment.

We’re growing and amongst the best performing companies in the industry financially: 2018 brought us the strongest result in our history so far, and we are well on track to extend that success further in 2019.  It has really been a privilege to be part of this great company!

My priority right now is to continue leading Learning effectively and then to handover to a successor before leaving Sanoma.

Investing in education/technology

After that, I’m intending to make some investments in the education (technology) sector and to see where that  brings me.  For early stage investments I will be investing in and working together with eduimpact.fi.  For later stage investments I will work together with other investors.  Feel free to reach out to me at johnrichmartin@gmail.com if you think I could in some way help your company to prosper.

Thank you!

Thank you to my colleagues at Sanoma Learning for their excellent work and cooperation through the years. Wishing them and Sanoma Learning all the best for a bright future ahead!

Looking forward >>

John Martin

Teachers Want to Go Digital Where it Brings Most Benefits

In the fifth annual Sanoma Learning Impact Framework (SLIF), we decided to focus on the main tasks the teacher performs in her profession. In total 7075 teachers responded to the survey, which was again carried out in all of the markets in which we operate: Belgium, Finland, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden.

Core activities

The main tasks for teacher are: lesson planning, teaching the whole class, exercising, testing, assessment and giving guidance personally or in small groups. Of course there are other tasks too, such as administrative work and professional development, but these are the most frequently repeated activities.

Figure 1 depicts the amount of time teachers estimate they spend on each activity. Teaching the whole study group takes most of the teachers’ time, but still only less than a third.

activities

Figure 1. Percentage of time spent on different tasks

As part of the digital transformation, we are as an educational publisher very interested in whether teachers prefer print or digital materials to support them in their work. Our experience so far is that they value both, and in last year’s SLIF we came to the conclusion that blended learning is the way to go.

As-is/to-be: medium vs activity

This time we decided to be more specific and map the print vs. digital axis with the activities a teacher carries out. This provided us with revealing results, as depicted in Figure 2.

present_vs_ideal

Figure 2. Materials and tools offered by publishers: Current use vs. Willingness to use

First of all, teachers would like to use more digital materials in all tasks than at present. Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, the gap between current and desired state is the greatest in tasks where pupils/students have a relatively more active role, namely exercising, testing, and assessment.

Currently 65% of teachers are using printed tests/exams. 28% say they use half & half or primarily digital tests/exams. Contrasting this with the desired state is staggering and the percentages get flipped: only 28% would like to use primarily print and 68% half or primarily digital. A similar phenomenon can be seen in exercising and assessment.

Digital where it makes most impact

What to make of this? We think the answer is simple. Both exercising and testing generate a lot of new content and insights for the teacher to go through. This makes assessment time-consuming for the teacher. With both questions and answers in a digital form, time is saved, insights are increased and pupil/student engagement is enhanced. Teachers are selectively looking to use digital for maximum impact.

Santtu Toivonen, Lead Insight Manager, Sanoma Pro

John Martin, CEO, Sanoma Learning

How many edtech companies are exporting more than $20M each year?

Source: HolonIQ

Source: HolonIQ

The promise of education markets is well marketed.  Estimates have been made that global education and training spend will reach approximately $10T (that’s $10,000,000,000,000) by 2030, about 6% of global GDP, with approximately 55% spent on the K-12 sector (somewhat above $3T this year).

Global edtech spend is forecasted to grow from $152B in 2018 (a paltry 2.6% of total spending) to $342B in 2025 (a slightly less meagre 4.4%).

Growth in edtech spend

Source: HolonIQ.com

Applying technology to learning and teaching should be a massive opportunity to both improve learning impact and to build a successful business, right?

I’m convinced on both counts.  But if global spend on K-12 is $3T then why is the spend on edtech so relatively modest? It’s mainly important to remember that about 80% of spending in K-12 is on teachers and other staff, with additional spending on other fixed costs such as buildings. Conceptually, in a pure-play digital future, in which teachers might be replaced with AI and robots, this could be an addressable market. However, this seems unlikely to happen at scale any time soon, since it would be not only pedagogically unsound but also socially unacceptable.  (It’s my own belief that the human teacher is the “killer app” in education).

Spending on Staff

Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2018

It seems more likely that technology will be used to super-charge teachers and enable more flexible organization forms for teaching.

Is there a global market for K-12 edtech?

If we would assume for the sake of argument that 2.6% of spending on K-12 education is digital (see above), this would imply a current spend of about $85B.

I would like to understand how much success the edtech industry is having in scaling internationally. How much of the $85B is being spent on local vs global solutions and how big is the opportunity for global vendors? It’s important for us to understand this dynamic as an industry: it will inform our investment decisions and potential to make an impact on learning.

Although the edtech market is not yet very mature, it is of a sufficient scale that we should expect to see successful global operators in edtech in K-12, if the market has a (partially) global nature.  Imagine we set a very low threshold: 0.025% of $85B spend, roughly $20M.  How many edtech companies are there in K-12 today who are generating $20M sales or more each year on edtech offerings being sold outside their market of origin?  More than 100? Less than 10?  I simply don’t know, my guess is there are tens rather than hundreds or thousands.

Who is exporting more than $20M?

I am very keen to discover and understand examples of such companies (exporting more than $20M of edtech each year outside of their home markets in K-12).  I would appreciate it if you would reach out to me when you know of good examples, or if you know of any good reports on the subject.  (Of course there are a number of examples I am aware of and I am excluding the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and so on, which are more generic tech solutions than specifically edtech).

Assuming it’s likely the international opportunity is currently under-developed, are there things that we can do together as an industry to unlock this potential?  At Sanoma we have successfully scaled our bingel platform in primary education across geographies, and are now working on the same with Kampus in secondary education.  Therefore within a Group it seems to be possible.  Are there other examples across Groups or through partnerships that have scaled successfully across international markets?  What can we learn from these examples?

HolonIQ

Source: HolonIQ

The Chinese, Americans and Indians have the advantage of huge internal markets.  At the same time, many of their edtech ventures are focused on capturing that big local opportunity.  However, it seems only to be a matter of time before some of these companies go global.  Whilst lacking their scale, could we Europeans (better) develop the capability to scale across geographies as a competitive advantage in edtech?  What would we need to do to make that happen?

Of course it’s a possibility that K-12 education and edtech markets will remain mainly local.  In which case we as an industry can adjust some of our investment hypotheses accordingly.  Yet I expect growing teacher shortages, pedagogical innovations and technological progress will drive change in our markets. We should organize ourselves to be ready for these changes.

 

Scaling European Edtech

I recently came across this interesting report from Navitas Ventures – Global Edtech Ecosystems 1.0: Connecting the World of Education Technology.  Navitas analysed 20 cities with leading edtech ecosystems representing about 40% of global edtech.  Beijing, the Bay Area and New York are top of the class, with Boston, London and Shanghai challenging.  They also assessed a further 14 emerging ecosystems at different states of maturity.  It’s clear that edtech is thriving across the globe!

Scale is essential to success in digital and you can see that in edtech too, with the predominance of China and the USA.  In addition, given the demography and emerging status of the edtech ecosystems in India and Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s likely that together these four regions will give birth to a generation of edtech giants.  Edtech could significantly improve the life chances of hundreds of millions of people in these regions by increasing access, participation and engagement in education.  It’s a powerful promise!

HolonIQ

Source: HolonIQ

What about Europe?

Europe has some natural advantages in the edtech space.  We are home to many world-class education systems such as Finland. There’s a rich start-up scene in a number of European cities with London leading (but will Brexit make us BETT-sick?). Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Helsinki and Amsterdam are vibrant and promising too, in fact there are more than 3000 edtech ventures across Europe today. Furthermore, there is significant and reliable spending on education through governments and ready access to venture and growth funding privately.

However, we lack scale

A lack of scale probably results in us under-serving our own customers.  It restricts our ability to expand to international markets. And it potentially exposes us to competitors grown in the big markets.  A lack of scale is restricting our potential.

European Champions

To address this, I think we need to create a European edtech network with strong go-to-market capabilities so we can effectively scale successful concepts across the continent.  I believe this network would be well served if it includes a handful of Champions to acts as magnets to talent, ideas and capital.

Learning organisation

I am interested in your ideas about how we could bring more scale to European edtech and what you think about the idea of building a European network with Champions.  How could we make that happen?  I’m also curious to learn from some of the challenger and emerging edtech ecosystems: how are they approaching this, what’s working and what’s not?  Learning is in our DNA, we need to put those skills to work if we are to bring this potential to life.

Sanoma’s Start-up Challenge Five Years On

Five years on from Sanoma’s Start-up Challenge on the Future of Learning at TNW2014, I checked out how the five finalists have fared.  I’m impressed!

Winner Labster raises growth funding

Winner of the Challenge Labster has been prospering and announced at the end of last month raising $21M in a series B round to develop more digital lab simulations and to grow in the US market.  Next stop the World.

DragonBox joins Kahoot!

Maths app developer DragonBox announced today that it has been acquired by Kahoot! for $18M.  Their claim is that together they are going to make learning maths awesome!

ClassCharts wins BETT

Edukey’s ClassCharts, a seating planner and behavioural management tool, has gone from strength to strength based on the close understanding of teaching and the classroom underpinned by a strong data and analytics capability. Edukey won Company of the Year at BETT2019.

Jumpido combines movement with software to boost maths learning and looks like quite a fun thing to do in primary schools.  Although the website is still active and the company was a finalist at the Forbes e-volution Award in 2016, they have been rather quiet since.

The website for the final contender Eduvee, an intuitive learning and tutoring platform, now re-directs to the education page of custom software and consulting company Elinext, likely indicating that some form of major pivot has taken place for this company.

Impressive

Overall it’s really impressive to see how much success these companies are achieving.  We were lucky to have selected such a strong cohort for our Start-up Challenge.

Inspiring

What I found inspiring in all of the contestants at the time was their deep understanding of their customers and their passion and drive to make a difference.  Five years on you can see the positive impact of the energy they have put into their ventures.

Looking forward >>

I’m curious on how far these companies will go in the next five years, and wish them every success in turning their ambitions into reality.

Higher Education Knews: Wiley Acquires Knewton

knewton

Following last week’s big yet long-awaited news of the intended merger between higher education giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill, this week has started with a more surprising announcement that Wiley is acquiring Knewton, for an undisclosed sum.

11 year old Knewton has been a prominent player in the edtech space, raising more than $180m of venture funding.  Recently the company has pivoted to combining its adaptive technology with OER in the Alta platform, with courses costing $39.95 or alternatively $9.95 per month.  This platform addresses the fundamental needs of outcomes and affordability in education, according to Brian Napack, CEO of Wiley and Chief Knerd Brian Kibby.

“Driving outcomes at an affordable price”

This is good news for students and further evidence that the higher education publishing industry is clearly transforming to providing affordable solutions, with lower priced subscription models.  In so doing this also offers a path to transformation and growth for the industry, through digital offerings and new business models.

Presumably Wiley could have licensed the technology from Knewton.  Likewise, Knewton could have operated more freely as an independent company in disrupting the market. Presumably the two parties concluded they can either move faster, or operate at a lower cost, or get a higher mutual commitment, or realise a more attractive financial profile by means of an acquisition rather than a partnership.  This does look like a win-win for the two companies.

In the meantime, all key industry players in higher education publishing have access to good adaptive technology, some in-house (such as McGraw-Hill) and some licensed (such as Wiley pre-transaction).  This move bolsters Wiley’s in-house capabilities. It’s interesting to note that Pearson, who was an investor in Knewton, decided to phase out their technology two years ago.

Both transactions, Cengage-McGraw-Hill and Wiley-Knewton, are good news for students looking for affordable outcomes, and positive steps in the transformation of the higher education publishing industry.  In my view, the broader scope of the unlimited subscription that can be offered by Cengage-McGraw-Hill, coupled with the funding potential that can be untapped through their cost synergy program, would suggest that that transaction has the higher transformative potential to the market of the two deals.  It will be fascinating to track adoptions and usage of the various subscription models and the learner outcomes enabled by those platforms in the coming years to see what’s really working for the learner.

Good luck to Wiley and Knewton in making a success of this deal!