She helps to convert edtech startup ideas into compelling propositions—and viable businesses.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
As a Managing Partner at EVC Ventures, Anjli Jain oversees a $50 million Chicago-based venture capital fund; she’s also the Founder and Chairman of Campus Consortium, a global consortium of 2000+ colleges and universities.
She was on the Fifth Annual Women’s Leadership Forum at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Ohio and has been on the Board of Directors for the Greater Cleveland YWCA and a few other tech-based entities. Anjli is also chair of Columbia Venture Community (CVC), a non-profit endorsed by Columbia University.
In 2011, Anjli was a recipient of the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club’s Northeast Ohio Top 25 Under 35 Movers & Shaker Award. She has also been featured among the top women edtech VCs of the United States by Women VC.
As a tech entrepreneur, investor and social activist, her goal has always been to inspire and support women entrepreneurs who are interested in revolutionizing the way the world learns. More recently, in 2018 Anjli joined 1871 (America’s #1 university-affiliated business incubator and accelerator) as a mentor to help and support startups accelerate their journey.
Anjli is also a frequent commentator and author on the intersection of education, technology, and entrepreneurship and has been featured globally by Entrepreneur, Businessworld, Techinasia, YourStory, Business Standard, EdTech Digest, and VC Circle, among others.
Anjli attended the Horace Mann School in New York City and later received her Bachelor degree from Barnard College, Columbia University in the City of New York. Her investment focus is on edtech, mobile apps, PaaS, SaaS, cloud and IDaaS.
Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur and the transition to a venture capital investor.
Anjli: Well, it’s easier said than done! The journey from a tech entrepreneur to a venture capital investor and setting up the VC fund, EVC Ventures, has been quite challenging yet rewarding. There were many struggles involved in the process and I believe that part is unavoidable.
Being a tech entrepreneur, building Campus Consortium and rising slowly yet constantly helped me grow in the education sector. I started Campus Consortium to help students and institutions have better, yet more affordable access to education. Helping colleges with grants and providing students with technology-enabled solutions are among some of the initiatives of the venture.
I believe if you are dedicated to something, you tend to collaborate with people associated with the same. They say, birds of feather flock together! This was the spirit that pushed me to invest in other higher education and technology startups.
With so many VCs investing in cryptocurrency, AR/VR, IoT, etc., it is interesting to see you focusing largely on Higher Education. Is that a very intentional decision?
Anjli: Yes, indeed it was, and with no apprehensions involved. The education sector has a lot of potential, especially, when the inclusion of technology is promising a bright side to it.
The amalgamation of technologies such as AI, AR/VR, Blockchain with the education sector, this space is surely something for investors to watch out for. According to a report, the global e-learning market is expected to reach $275.10 billion by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 7.5%. I believe there is a huge potential in the HigherEd space and I am sure many of you would agree with that.
What do you believe is the role of technology in education?
Anjli: Why support technology alone when you can leverage the tech-supported solutions in the education sector?
The technology industry is booming and everyone is trying to make the most out of it. Higher Education is known for being diligent and intentional about making changes, needless to say, there are many scopes of growth around it. You grow more when you have enough scopes to learn; the education sector justifies the thought. Another facet to the same is solving preeminent problems in the education sector like engaging students, uplifting student retention rates, improving learning outcomes, etc., which is definitely achievable by tech-enabled education system.
What is the state of education today? Any noticeable gaps we need to fill?
Anjli: Being unable to feel and interact with what you are learning, despite being equipped with diverse technologies, comes across as one of the biggest gaps in education space for me. I grew up reading books about inventions and discoveries, and what always kept me hooked was imagining the thrill and the rush people of the era must have experienced. But sadly, those discoveries were limited to my imagination. However, now students don’t have to just read those things, they can literally relive a specific period/phase using cutting-edge technologies like AR/VR. Having said that, unsuccessful implementation of the same is one of the biggest gaps in today’s education sector.
I believe, handy, seamless, and non-siloed access to information for students and educators, in the age of massive technology inclusions is a must. No one should have to look at physical boards for campus updates, communications should be handy and accessible from any place at any time. It should be mobile!
How is EVC Ventures empowering edtech companies to fill these gaps?
Anjli: Although sector agnostic, EVC Ventures primarily focuses on the education space and supports several companies catering to higher education. For example, we backed Unifyed, which provides colleges and universities with a single platform to rapidly launch a digital campus for mobile devices and websites, ultimately ensuring a better student experience and improved student engagement. The other portfolio we invested in was I-MADE which helps a campus to digitize at no cost, but also with partnership with the government of India, it was designed to provide students training on different aspects of mobile app development in order to empower institutions and help students turn ideas into revenue generating companies.
In addition, we have also supported companies like BlackBeltHelp, which provides 24X7 helpdesk support to colleges and students. We also looked at the security side of things and backed Quicklaunch which is a next-generation AI-based Identity-as-a-Service platform.
What major trends just ahead are you keeping an eye on? Why those?
Anjli: The education sector has shown massive growth when it comes to embracing technological shifts. Inclusion of Blockchain, AR/VR, Machine Learning, Automation, Personalized Learning Assistance, etc. within a student’s educational experience are definitely a few of the trends I am looking forward to. These technologies are poised to take the education sector by storm. From remodelling of the classrooms to redefining the role of educators, the inclusion of these tech trends will define the new era of learning and growth. With the constant influx of such learning methodologies, the traditional education system is destined for a transformation. It will be interesting to be a part of these in one or the other way.
As a successful entrepreneur and investor, what’s your advice to edtech people looking to make their mark in education?
Anjli: Regularly ask yourself: Are you solving a major problem in the society? Are you a force of nature? If no, then work towards it.
Avoid entrepreneurial myopia when struck by an idea that has you mesmerized. There is more to starting up than an idea, and early adoption may not always result in a billion-dollar business.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: [email protected]