Led by Satish Menon, former CTO of the Apollo Group (s APOL) (which owns for-profit education giant University of Phoenix), UV Labs will partner with universities and other higher education providers to build products addressing a range of issues, from accessibility to affordability to accountability. UV Labs, which will operate as an independent company, currently includes only Menon, the co-founder and CEO, but he said his first order of business is building out a team and focusing on a set of priorities.
Backed by German media company Bertelsmann, as well as the University of Texas Investment Management Company and other smaller partners, University Ventures has also invested in UniversityNow, an online learning site focused on making degrees more affordable; Synergis Education; and Ameritas College Educational Services, which offers degree programs targeting Hispanic Americans.
Menon acknowledged that UV Labs’ genesis is untraditional — usually entrepreneurs look for investments from venture funds, rather than start companies with them as partners. But he said he was drawn to the opportunity to combine his experience in education and technology with a company connected to global media and educational institutions.
As we’ve written about previously, investor and entrepreneur interest in education technology — at the higher ed and K-12 level — is soaring. But while many investors and founders feel that the way to disrupt industries is from the outside, Menon said a key thesis shared by University Ventures and UV Labs is that innovation is best undertaken from within. By partnering with universities as they build products, he said, they’ll be able to identify opportunity areas and get feedback and iterate faster.
Given that the company is only a few weeks old, Menon said, it’s too early to discuss specific products, but he added that a core principle for the company will be using data-driven services to bring efficiencies to the full range of higher education experiences, from a high school student looking at colleges to adults considering traditional and nontraditional continuing education programs.
“Whether the program you want to enroll in is the right one for you or if, while you’re in school, you want to make sure that a specific pathway is right for you, it’s all moving to more quantified approaches these days using data,” he said. “Our goal is understand that kind of data and move the entire process to a more effective plane than it is today.”
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