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How AWS is powering Australia’s education technology startups

Cloud giant is gearing up education technology startups in Australia to develop cloud applications for schools and universities

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is accelerating its efforts to support Australia’s educational technology startups, starting with two businesses in the country, School Bytes and Saasyan.

In June 2018, AWS launched the EdStart initiative in Australia, targeting education technology startups that are less than five years old and generate less than $10m in annual revenues.

Participants are provided with a range of services, including marketing support, cloud credits and technical advice and training.

Vincent Quah, regional head of education, research, healthcare and non-profit organisations at AWS Asia-Pacific, said the education technology community is very fragmented, with companies often developing narrow solutions.

EdStart will provide a forum for participants to engage their peers, and to access technology and financial support, he said.

Although AWS does not invest in the startups directly, it can facilitate introductions to venture capital firms and other investors through pitch days, said Quah.

EdStart covers technology aimed at K-12 schools and higher education, but School Bytes and Saasyan focus on school technology.

School Bytes’ founder and CEO, Blake Garrett, was still a schoolboy himself when he came up with the business idea. Now 21, he runs a company that streamlines communications and payments between schools and parents.

Rather than print newsletters and bills, schools using its system can communicate with parents electronically and direct them to secure payment portals when required, significantly reducing schools’ need to handle cash.

Installed in 326 of New South Wales’ 2,200 government schools, the system could be extended to Queensland and Victoria, said Garrett.

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Working with AWS cloud services has ensured that School Bytes has the scale required to grow the business, he added. “AWS has allowed our parent payment portal to manage substantial workloads, even with thousands of logins at the same time.”

Under the EdStart initiative, School Bytes is also benefiting from cloud credits and support from AWS solution architects.

Saasyan is the other Australian education technology startup on the programme. Focused on supporting the cyber welfare of students in years K-12, it offers schools a reporting tool that shows how students spend their time on the internet.

The tool also supports pastoral care by providing insights about what individual students searched for or the content they were exposed to, and offers an override function that enables teachers to control which online sites students can access.

Saasyan’s founder and managing director, Greg Margossian, said being part of the EdStart community has helped to build the firm’s exposure and confidence.

According to analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, Australia’s education technology market is slated to grow to A$1.7bn by 2022, fuelled by growing demand for education services and technology innovation, competition among institutions and decreasing acquisition costs.

The growing market also attracted UK-based education software company Firefly to open a Sydney office in early 2015 to support its customers across the Asia-Pacific region.

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