Why I sold my edutech startup after 18 years of building it

- March 31, 2021 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
This week, after building the Momentum ESR platform for nearly 18 years, we’ve been acquired by Compass Education.

I’ve been asked several times why I did this now.

The simple answer is: we have found a shared vision in Compass education to provide a comprehensive school administration solution for NSW Schools into the future. We also share the same values in terms of respecting the opportunity we have to serve teachers, principals, admin staff, guardians and school communities in their important work, educating our children.

The more complex reasoning spans the entire journey of how ESR arrived at this juncture, captured and missed opportunities, market influences, and even how our geographical location has played a role in the markets we have had access to.

ESR was the first online student report card solution within NSW Public schools, available from 2003, followed by ESR Welfare in 2006. In 2010, ESR evolved into Momentum ESR and was one of the first reporting, attendance, and welfare solutions to be delivered as a cloud-based solution to NSW Public schools.

Being first to market has its advantages and disadvantages. As an innovator, I am most proud of our company’s capacity to identify market needs and be the first to offer solutions. Our solutions have not only supported our clients but informed the category development within our industry over many years.

Our influence, alongside other commercial providers, within NSW Schools, in parallel with the evolution of the online world, saw the NSW Government invest in developing like solutions over the best part of the last decade, at the cost of no less than $750 million under the now abandoned LMBR Business Reform. The reform over many years suppressed investment within the NSW sector, as the threat of a mandatory use of Government supplied solutions loomed.

With the NSW Department of Education now moving away from building its own solutions and encouraging schools to utilise approved vendor solutions, the opportunity to innovate and work with schools to create effective bottom-up solutions, presents itself again, as it did in 2003.

However, what has changed significantly over the last 18 years is the online world, software development costs, data privacy and protection requirements and customer service expectations. In knowing how we will evolve Momentum ESR and our drive to innovate, capacity is critical to delivering upon our vision and in meeting our client’s needs.

In joining the Compass team, we will be represented by 160+ employees across Australia, the UK, Ireland and Canada. Our shared knowledge and vision will contribute to supporting more than 1800 schools and 2 million parents, teachers and students. ESR school clients will benefit from a raft of new modules including parent communication, portals and payments, attendance kiosk services, parent interview management, end-to-end student information management and reporting solutions.

Our partnership will provide our existing clientele and the broader NSW Public schools market with a significant opportunity to utilise a comprehensive, Australian owned, K-12 School Administrative Software solution, supported by one of NSW most experienced and innovative development teams.

Our partnership will provide a cost-effective choice for schools and significant competition for incumbent solutions, supporting the NSW Department of Education to provide regulated competition and value for the taxpayer.

I have sold Momentum ESR so that we can be part of a much bigger team, working with the same passion and vision, in support of our clients.

We are all looking forward to working and supporting NSW Schools to evolve ESR solutions with us over the years ahead, enabling educators to spend less time administrating and more time educating students.

  • Aaron Hughes is co-founder of Momentum ESR