Dispatches from the Front
EdTech Leaders Face Covid-19
This is the seventeenth of a series of mini-interviews ODP conducted with EdTech Founders and Senior Executives to gain insights into how industry leaders are adjusting their strategies and evolving their management practices during the current pandemic.
THIS WEEK: Dee Kanejiya, Founder and CEO of Cognii
Dee Kanejiya
Founder and CEO of Cognii


Dee Kanejiya is the founder and CEO of Cognii, a leading provider of AI technology to the education industry. Cognii’s award-winning Virtual Learning Assistant is an AI tutor that engages students in a natural language conversation while automatically grading their written answers. Dee started Cognii out of his passion for developing innovative solutions with a real social impact. He has over two decades of experience in AI and EdTech industries with a specialization in natural language processing and virtual assistant technologies. He studied Master’s and PhD in Electrical Engineering at IIT Delhi and conducted post-doc research at Carnegie Mellon University, and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.


1. What impact has Covid had on the education industry and how will the industry evolve post-pandemic?

Education has been one of the most impacted industries by the Covid pandemic. The sudden transition to virtual and remote learning in 2020 presented a number of challenges for schools, teachers, students, and parents. However, due to all of their commendable efforts, we minimized the learning loss. EdTech industry also played a vital role in supporting the transition to remote learning.

Schools and colleges already familiar with blended learning approaches pre-pandemic were better positioned, while others had a steep learning curve. Equitable access to the digital infrastructure and EdTech solutions has also become an important issue.

Post-pandemic, the education industry will continue the shift towards blended learning by combining the best of the instructor-driven in-person learning and the EdTech supported online and virtual learning. Some of the positives from the pandemic-era practices such as flexibility of time and place for learning and work will become part of future organizational strategies.

2. What role will EdTech, especially AI, play in transforming the education and training industry?

EdTech industry is still in the early stages of development as the pandemic demonstrated that the impromptu solution of ‘zoom classes’ was not ideal for providing engaging education to students.

In order to improve the effectiveness of online learning, EdTech will need to focus on supporting the core processes of in-person learning such as the natural language based one-to-one tutoring conversation between a student and a teacher, real-time qualitative feedback, and assessments using high-quality constructed-response questions that measure students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.

AI technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning will play a very important role in achieving this and minimizing the inefficiencies of the education processes. Cognii Virtual Learning Assistant is an example of such an EdTech that improves students’ learning outcomes, teachers’ productivity, and schools’ scalability. A well-designed AI optimized for education has the potential to truly democratize access to high quality education for all. Similarly, AI will have a significant opportunity to improve the workplace training and re-skilling in a rapidly changing job market of the future.

3. How should a school or a university evaluate EdTech products?

​​​​​​​Educational institutions should select EdTech products and services that are centrally aligned to their mission and vision. They should evaluate EdTech products by measuring their impact on all the stakeholders — students, teachers, administrators, and possibly parents and governments.

  • They should make sure that the EdTech product is supported by a concrete cognitive scientific theory that maximizes the positive learning gain for their students.
  • They should also make sure that the product has a truly innovative technology to maximize their return on investment, and that the company has in-house expertise and has been active in this field for       a significant period of time.
  • For advanced technologies such as AI, it is especially important to separate the products that use AI as a marketing buzzword from products with real AI capabilities.

Additional factors to consider include the ease of product use and professional development support for teachers.

4. What are other emerging technologies that will have an impact on the future of learning and work?

As EdTech advances and brings us closer to a highly effective virtual learning environment, we will see newer and emerging technologies getting incorporated into EdTech such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Simulations, Gamification, Multimodal Interfaces, Multilingual Conversational Chatbots, Learning Companion Bots, Automatic Creation of Course Modules and Personalized Learning Pathways, Automatic Project and Research Report Evaluation, Automatic Competency Evaluation and Job Placements etc. These technologies will need to serve all the stakeholders of the education ecosystem in order to provide an equitable and affordable high quality education and work environment.


Managing Director






Senior Advisor



Senior Advisor








Please contact us to discuss your Company and also hear what is happening in EdTech M&A!


Oaklins | DESILVA+PHILLIPS is an investment bank for clients that operate at the intersection of content, technology and services. This includes enterprises operating within the media, advertising & marketing, education, healthcare, information services and technology sectors.  Over 24 years, clients have included Advance Publications/Condé Nast, Deutsche Börse Group, Elsevier, Hachette, JP Morgan Partners, Microsoft, The New York Times, Time Inc., TPG and Wasserstein & Co., among others. The firm is the TMT practice co-head and industry specialist in Oaklins, the world’s most experienced mid-market M&A advisor, with over 850 professionals globally and dedicated industry teams in more than 45 countries. We have closed 1,700 transactions in the past five years.At Oaklins, we are passionate about M&A. It’s what we do, every day. We give nothing but our very best to do justice to the extraordinary effort our clients put into their businesses. Our partnership with our clients works because we both believe in never settling until we deliver excellence. Coming from every corner of the world and with a diverse range of backgrounds, together we are one global team. The world’s most experienced advisor on mid-market deals.Oaklins is the collective trade name of independent member firms affiliated with Oaklins International Inc. For details of the nature of the affiliation, please refer to www.oaklins.com/legal.

follow on Twitter | follow on LinkedIn


Robin Warner

Managing Director

Oaklins DeSilva+Phillips

(212) 651-2605