Basing your tech investment decisions on media coverage is a sure recipe for losing money. By the time the forces that determine whether a tech company thrives or dives make it into the press the smart money has already arrived or left.
A better strategy for tech investing would be to re-enroll in college. But if you don't have the time or desire to move back into a dorm room I'd still suggest that you come for a campus visit.
Why should tech investors spend time on campus?
1. Tomorrow's Technology: It is often said that the university has one foot in the 21st century and one foot in the 11th. Fair enough. But in many ways the future of how technology will be utilized can be found on the campus of today. We were amongst the first to embrace e-mail, the browser, digital money, wi-fi, social media, and mobile everything. How many of our tech companies were originally conceived of in a dorm room?
2. Visible Early Adopters: Higher ed is lived out in the open. Campuses are open places. People talk about what goes on in the classroom and in student life. Information exchange is the currency of the higher ed business. This openness equates to heightened visibility for our campus early tech adopters.
3. Tech Brand Loyalty: Want to get a good idea about which tech brands will be strong and which tech brands will be dead in a few years? Spend some time in an academic library, in a student union, and on the green. Any tech company that hopes to sell into the corporate enterprise space would be wise to start building brand awareness amongst future corporate employees. Any tech company with a consumer play is in trouble if they fail to develop mindshare within the higher ed market. Tomorrow's influencers and decision makers are today's college students. I'd be worried about investing in any tech company that does not have a higher ed strategy, even if they are not in the ed tech business.
4. Diverse and Heterogenous Environments: The days of a standard set of technologies chosen for faculty, students, and staff by the administration are coming to an end. Everyone will be coming to campus with whatever computer, tablet, smart phone, and gaming system that they choose. This technology diversity can be a nightmare for those of us that are tasked with having all of our campus services work on every screen. But the heterogenous nature of campus technology will mean a rapid evolution towards better technology, and in the end better educational experiences. Anyone interested in investing in technology should spend time on campus to understand how the changing tech ecosystems hangs together (or doesn't), and which companies seem to have the platforms, software, and devices that make life on campus more productive.
How has your higher ed experience informed your thinking about tech investing?
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