The COVID pandemic has brought a rush of new people interested in building tools and businesses to help improve education. And today’s tech environment, with easy-to-use tools and social media, makes it easier than ever for entrants to reach global learners and sell their products or services, so that anyone with a good idea and a laptop can get started virtually overnight.

At the start of this decade, the habits, communities and institutions entrepreneurs had on hand to source data, iterate and benchmark—to “spy land”—were fractured. The happy hours and gatherings that innovators came to rely on for mental health and sanity-checks evaporated, and subsequently the same trust proved difficult to build online. The local ecosystem we grew our companies within changed as families and institutions became unmoored and fragmented. The “tribal knowledge networks” that existed for funding, market need, talent availability and “unfair advantage” had disbanded.

As online learning became more acceptable for institutions and individuals—and the only option for most—the ease of getting started created new problems for each entrepreneur. Thousands of companies born overnight meant many businesses were competing for attention online from busy decision-makers. Even savvy marketers found it difficult to cut through the noise, to stand out and attract customers. The competition demanded that innovators understand an increasingly complex landscape within which they needed to differentiate their solutions. It was easier than ever to get started; but it became more difficult to stay alive and navigate to a sure footing.

The “land” itself moved location and topography, as traditionally sticky relationships between innovators and educational institutions become mired in additional bureaucracy and anxiety about the future. This left many innovators and educators feeling misinformed, dated or disconnected. Aside from the innovators who happened to be standing in the optimal place when the winds changed, everyone else had to forget what they thought they knew and revisit what it meant to best serve customers.

A few years on, we are building new systems for entrepreneurial learning and networking. Instead of going to college to get a job, traditional students increasingly find or create a job that comes with college. Recently, for instance, Inside Higher Ed highlighted that the fastest-growing demographic enrolling in online universities like Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University are traditional-age students. Online universities still serve working adults, but those working adults are increasingly traditional-age students pursuing entrepreneurship or choosing to do online degrees in technology while working.

These shifts have left others with a renewed focus on self, and freed them to increase their capacity to produce—the “startup of one” (i.e. creators). The creator economy has exploded, with over 200 million entrepreneurial creators now online, with each individual leveraging a diversified portfolio of platforms and business models. Although it takes six months before most earn their first dollar, 10 percent of creators make $100,000 or more, equivalent to the top 10 percent of wage earners in the U.S. Most creators learn how to build their businesses from each other, with each generation pushing the boundaries of content, business and self-expression.

As learners become more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions, businesses are under increasing pressure to consider their environmental and social impact. This has led to the rise of social entrepreneurship, where businesses are created not just to make a profit, but also to make a positive impact on the world. We increasingly see these hybrids of incorporated form led by seasoned and budding entrepreneurs, funded by impact-oriented public and private resources, seeking to solve global and local learning challenges. They address problems that were either too big or too small for traditional kinds of companies.

Read the full article about edtech by Ash Kaluarachchi at EdSource.