ASU+GSV: Different Clientele, but Similar Ideals

We spent three days last week at the annual ASU+GSV Summit, education's highest-falutin affair, replete with fancy snacks, open bar(s) -- and a much less diverse body of attendees than other conferences.

It figures; this is the "education investor conference" -- not the only one, but the one that draws most from the investor community as the education one. Lots of blazers with jeans, a lot of talk about revenue growth -- and a bit less about student growth -- and multiples, and scaling. Big-name speakers. A lot of networking.

And yet. 

And yet, beneath it all (or perhaps at its core), we found the same sense of idealism as at other, lower-falutin conferences, the kinds attended by more teachers and fewer analysts, more school leaders and fewer company founders. 

A session on data interoperability returned, time and again, to its ultimate goal of a profound, positive impact on student achievement. A panel discussion on scaling startups centered on achieving a broad, societal impact through corporate growth. Those big-name speakers waxed passionately about not giving up on our schools, and about American education's best days being in front of us. Even the term "unicorn" meant something entirely different.

Even though we at Spotlight base everything we do on taking in information with context, and on looking beneath the surface to find the insights beneath the data, these were pleasant surprises -- a nice reminder that wearing a blazer, or even describing the potential for profitability, doesn't make you any less passionate about improving educational outcomes for kids.