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Desert Innovation: Arizona an Ed Tech Hub?

Education technology leaders in the Southwest look forward to the day that Arizona will be synonymous with ed tech innovation. That day may not be as far off as you think.

25+ Call Arizona Home

There are more than 25 education technology companies doing business in Arizona right now, according to EdTechAZ, a group committed to showcasing and promoting the education technology ecosystem in Arizona. From elementary school to postsecondary education, these companies are innovating the way students learn, the way teachers teach, and the way admin and school officials run their departments and districts.

For Arizona citizens, it should be a relief that Arizona’s private sector companies are seeking to innovate and improve the education system. Arizona ranks 45th in teacher salaries, according to this report by the National Education Association, and 32nd for number of gold and silver medal high schools compared to other states. Arizona is consistently among the least funded as far as education investment at the state level. Many Arizona ed tech companies can help schools save time and money, as well as more efficiently and effectively use the funding they have.

Award Winning Arizona Ed Tech Startups

The state of Arizona is investing in the ed tech community as well. The Arizona Innovation Challenge is a business plan competition sponsored by the Arizona Commerce Authority. In two of the last three competitions, the Arizona Innovation Challenge grant of $250,000 was awarded to an education technology company.

Picmonic, creator of the revolutionary education software proven to help students learn faster and retain information longer, won the Challenge in the Spring of 2014. CampusLogic won the Challenge in the Spring of 2015, the same week the startup closed a $4.1 million funding round.

Not only are ed tech startups cropping up all over Arizona, investors are taking notice. More than taking notice, they’re opening their pocketbooks.

Where Innovators Meet Investors

2015 has seen incredible advancement of ed tech in Arizona. Leading the way is the enormous ASU+GSV Summit conference, which saw 270 companies present and more than 2,000 attendees flocking to the desert to learn about the up-and-coming ed tech endeavors, according to The New York Times.

When the Summit began six years ago, it was a small oasis of about 50 ed tech companies and potential investors. Now, more than five times as large and attracting investors from across the globe, the Summit has become the year’s central event for investors looking for the next big innovation in education technology.

Among the ed tech startups that call Arizona home is Scottsdale-based Parchment, a leading academic credential management system. Parchment claims Matthew Pittinsky as its CEO. Pittinsky was one of the founders of Blackboard, a software company that is used in approximately 17,000 schools and organizations. Pittinsky confirms Arizona’s ed tech startup community’s success in capital raising.

In the last three years, Arizona ed tech startups have raised more than $100 million in angel and venture capital, and these investments have resulted in at least 750 jobs, according to Pittinsky.

Opportunities for Improvement in Education

The U.S. education system consistently ranks middle of the pack or lower compared to other industrialized countries. Within this room for improvement, there is a space for Arizona and the national ed tech market to harness innovation and technology to improve educational outcomes for all Americans.

Arizona is up to the challenge. Are you?