“Over the past few years we have experienced a renaissance in education technology investing, and there are numerous smart people in the field working hard to solve our most difficult problems.” – Victor Hu, USA
As the private sector increasingly spends greater resources on education, education entrepreneurs often need funding. That’s where Victor Hu comes in. Through his company, Goldman Sachs, Hu not only advises and funds education-related businesses, he also must stay on top of trends in education. In a recent USA Today story, Hu noted that venture capital firms have put $2 billion dollars into education technology in the past five years. “Technology is doing to education what it’s done to countless other industries: disrupting it,” Hu says.
In today’s Daily Edventure, Hu talks about what his firm is doing to support that healthy disruption, and about the uphill challenges facing education reform, including poverty. And for more on Hu’s views, here’s his recent speech at Stanford University, where Hu shares his business insights on education trends, including MOOCs:
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
Goldman Sachs advises and invests in leading education companies. We help great companies continue to grow and innovate and bring their products and services to the market.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
One of the major areas of focus for our education team is helping to advance dialogue on important education issues and bringing people of diverse backgrounds together. As part of that effort, over the last two years we have partnered with Stanford University to host a Global Education Conference that has brought together ministers of education, CEOs of numerous education companies in the US and overseas, investors, entrepreneurs, leaders of teacher unions, academics and leading nonprofits. Each year we have had 500-600 people gather and the dialogue we’ve had has been truly inspiring.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Our focus is on building long-term relationships, and we believe a patient, long-term-oriented approach is important, especially in the education field. This is true whether you are an educator or an investor.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
As an investment bank, we look for companies who have applied technology in innovative ways and try and find ways to support them in their work, whether through capital or advisory services.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
I believe the biggest obstacle to receiving a quality education – including in the US, one of the wealthiest nations on earth – is poverty, and all its attendant challenges.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
The one hopeful sign is that there is an emerging consensus across the political aisle that we as a country need to focus our efforts on strengthening our education system.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
There are numerous ways we need to improve. For starters, we need to afford our teachers and educators greater respect and find more ways to support their work in the classroom.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
While there is no single panacea, I am pleased that we are beginning to fundamentally rethink some of the old rules in education that are rooted in prior generations. Beginning to adopt competence-based education rather than seat-time, for example, represents an “innovation” for our tradition-bound education system. I am also encouraged by the flow of private capital into education. Over the past few years we have experienced a renaissance in education technology investing, and there are numerous smart people in the field working hard to solve our most difficult problems.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Look out over the horizon. The first few years are hard, but it gets better over time.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
I think there is an important trend with content being democratized and traditional institutional barriers giving way. MOOCs are a great example of this – people from poor countries who previously did not have a chance of enrolling at a great US university all of a sudden can take classes from the best professors in the world for free.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
I would love to see every child have access to low-cost broadband. With powerful search tools and content improving on the web every day, the motivated learner can learn so much these days with just a computer that is connected to the Internet.
About Victor Hu
- Birthplace: Taipei, Taiwan
- Current residence: San Francisco, California
- Education: Amherst College (BA), Harvard Law School (JD), The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (MBA)
- Website I check every day: New York Times
- Person who inspires me most: There are many, but my grandfather, whom I never had the opportunity to meet, is a major inspiration. He was a general in the Chinese nationalist army. His story is one of sacrifice, leadership and selfless commitment.
- Favorite childhood memory: I spent seven years in Africa growing up, and a favorite memory is being out in the African veld with my family at places like Kruger National Park in South Africa and Etosha Pan in Namibia.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Toronto
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? This morning. My daughters make me laugh every day with their silliness and cuteness.
- Favorite book: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. A beautiful novel about love and sacrifice set in apartheid South Africa.
- Favorite music: Pretty eclectic. Rock, classical, jazz – every genre has its season.
- Your favorite quote or motto: One of my favorite CEOs likes to say, “Train hard, fight easy” – love her approach to life.