American Edtech Unicorns Have Surged in 2020. What Do They Tell Us About the Sector?

What’s in a unicorn? When Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee coined the term in 2013, the world had only 39 startups valued at $1 billion or more. Today, CB Insights counts 465. Back in 2018, Quartz’s Alison Griswold described them as a “sizable herd.” Though the status may be diluted, startups that grow a horn certainly capture our imaginations. And as the folks at Embroker write, “we can still look at the herd as a whole to pick out patterns.” So: what patterns can we glean from American edtech unicorns?

The answer would be incomplete without a qualification regarding the pandemic.

EdSurge’s Rebecca Koenig said it best: “For the edtech industry, the pandemic poses a paradox.” On the one hand, schools, families, and organizations need digital learning tools and resources now more than ever. On the other hand, unemployment is ramping up and budgets are getting slashed.

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