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“Improving education is the most effective way to change the world for the better” - Emerge Education's CEO Jan Lynn-Matern

We caught up with Lynn-Matern to discover what inspired him to found his company and where he sees the most potential for change and improvement in education.

Education is key to improving the standard of living for humans globally. In fact, research suggests that one extra year of schooling raises an individual's yearly earnings by 10 percent and reduces the risk of conflict in a country by 20 percent. That's why Jan Lynn-Matern, CEO of UK-based Emerge Education, is so passionate about working with entrepreneurs to improve access to education and learning outcomes around the world. Emerge Education is an accelerator that helps EdTech startups grow by providing access to capital, expertise and partnership opportunities. We caught up with Lynn-Matern to discover what inspired him to found his company and where he sees the most potential for change and improvement in education.

Morressier: Could you provide some background to your company?

Jan Lynn-Matern: I founded Emerge Education in 2010 with the aim of helping entrepreneurs improve the education system and the way people learn. At Emerge Education, we invest in and support companies that have an evidence-based approach to improving education outcomes and that have the potential to scale their services to millions or even billions of people. We invest in companies from around the world, whether they are focused on early years, K-12, tertiary education, academia, corporate learning or consumer learning. We now have over 50 companies in our portfolio.


Morressier: What inspired you to found your company?

Lynn-Matern: On a personal level I wanted to make the biggest impact possible. Improving education is the most effective way to change the world for the better. There is a huge untapped potential for technology companies to advance education while also becoming very successful businesses.


Morressier: Where do you see the most potential for change and improvement in education?

Lynn-Matern: Focusing on the potential for technology to impact education, I believe there are two main opportunities: first, building digital infrastructure to enhance existing formal education institutions. Companies in this sector create value by generating efficiency gains around existing workflows and they become defensible at scale by building network effects and gaining a unique understanding of users’ behaviour. Second, providing the right content at the right time in ways that aren’t currently supported by the traditional education system. What people want to learn is changing at a faster pace than the speed at which the formal education system adapts. This has created an opportunity for private companies to come in and build new providers and brands focused on niche skill and learning areas.


Morressier: What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the education system at the moment?  

Lynn-Matern: Preparing for the future, overly valuing what can be measured, diversity and quality of delivery, teacher shortage and workload. One of the big problems we think about is the fact that the skills, knowledge and characteristics needed to succeed in life in the 21st century are fundamentally different in many ways to what is taught in most schools and universities today. Through our investments, we try to provide alternative educational provision which plugs this gap.Further, educational institutions are forced to perform to specific key performance indicators, designed to hold them accountable. While accountability is great, this often leads to a disproportionate focus on what can, as opposed to should, be measured. Add to this a shortage of great teachers and a resulting massive workload for teachers, and increasing diversity in the incoming student body across all stages of education, and institutions are understandably stretched. Many of our investments try to address this problem by providing passionate teachers and administrators with the tools to cope with this increasing pressure.


Morressier: Which teaching and learning approaches are you most excited about now?

Lynn-Matern: I am excited about the potential of phenomenon-based teaching, which is not a new concept but has recently been implemented by a growing number of schools. Finland’s 2017 curriculum reforms are a particularly interesting example of a wide scale implementation of this type of approach. We recently made an investment in Odyssey College, a new private university based in London. One of the core principles of which is to teach in a problem-focused way.


Morressier: Finally, what is your long-term aim for Emerge Education?

Lynn-Matern: In 20 years we want to have played an instrumental role in having grown companies that are improving education for billions of people.

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