Universities are missing out on an explosive growth sector: Their own

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Education is on the brink of rapid change that will create a lot of value for innovators. But still sitting on the sidelines? Those who make the decisions and control the purse strings at legacy higher education institutions.

One representative example: April’s Education Innovation Summit, where more than 2,000 people energetically discussed how technology and markets are charting the future of education globally. The summit’s organizers claimed that 80 universities were in attendance, but a closer look at the attendee list revealed only a handful of high-level decision makers — and exactly one university endowment. Most of the attendees from post-secondary institutions were professors or deans of schools of education. Meanwhile, the halls were filled with hundreds of investors and hundreds more entrepreneurs.

I’ll admit that I’m not an entirely disinterested observer when I look upon the $450 billion currently sitting in university endowments in the U.S. I’m a partner at a venture capital firm, and venture capital has long been a key way for the top-performing endowments to deploy capital.

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