Investing in Jewish EdTech as a Private Donor

Investing in Jewish EdTech as a Private Donor

In early 2016, the William Davidson Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation commissioned a report called Smart Money: Recommendations for an Educational Technology and Digital Engagement Investment Strategy. The report offered several recommendations for investing in Jewish EdTech:

  • Partner with companies and organizations already active in the EdTech space
  • Track and commission EdTech products that emerge from the general EdTech space for the Jewish audience
  • Invest significant grants in developing new content using “Big/Proven Talent” and general EdTech companies
  • Invest in crossover opportunities
  • Invest with smaller innovation grants and in field building
  • Invest in collaboration among the best of existing Jewish EdTech producers

A Different Perspective

The recommendations allow individual funders to identify optimal investing strategies. Sector-building investments, however, require something more. Isolated funding strategies are likely to lead to over-funding of specific areas, such as content creation, higher allocations to incumbent operators, and solutions which don’t necessarily meet the needs of the market. Also, this style of funding lends itself to supporting organizations that are best at raising funds, but not necessarily those which most effectively deploy those funds. This may deprive funding to new entrants who are fresh and nimble, and therefore more in tune with market demands.

Due to its small market size and limited funders, Jewish EdTech is particularly susceptible to this “feast or famine” problem. But the constraints facing the sector can also be used to strategic advantage: since there are only a handful of active major funders, fewer organizations require alignment and funders can broadly align towards ecosystem level goals. Corralling funders, like herding cats, is notoriously difficult; however desirable for pooled funding and investing, it may not be the most realistic option. Articulating a set of guiding principles, which disparate funders can use as a North Star, enables multiple funders to row in the same direction, albeit in different boats.

In summary, the recommendations of the Smart Money report may be useful at the tactical level, but following these recommendations may not necessarily lead to advancing the overall Jewish EdTech sector. To achieve sector level impact funders should contextualize their individual investments within the Jewish EdTech ecosystem. This will enable small and large funders alike to contribute to the collective cumulative efforts of the sector.

Additional details on strategic ecosystem building can be found here .

Make a Difference and Contribute to the World of Jewish EdTech

As a potential funder looking to make an investment that contributes to the rapid growth of educational technologies within Jewish education initiatives, it is important to understand the various details involved in making successful investments with maximum impact.

Explore the following pages to learn more about integral elements to becoming an investor in educational innovation.

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