With companies like knewton and amplify garnering success, and acquiring big clients, is there a market for small startups to enter into this newish (midterm horizon) field?
Qualifications on the answer:
Created the first website to be ever commercially licensed by a ministry of education for in-school use (Brainium 1996).
Was a VC associate at a 500,000,000 firm called Knowledge Universe focused on all things education-related that intersected with technology.
Yes and no.
Learning analytics is one of those "lightening in a bottle" kind of industries. Everyone knows it's going to happen, whomever makes it happen at scale first, will have a huge advantage, and even more niche plays in this space will still create massive value for shareholders and significant transformation of education as we know it.
That's the good news. The problem is that funding startups in the education space that are dependent on "permission" being granted by existing institutions and their employees is very much hit or miss. It's getting easier to raise a $500-800k seed round for a good idea with a good team, but the problem is that getting the next bigger round is very challenging in that the models of most of these seed-funded companies are not growing fast enough to prove to institutional investors that a growth model of the idea being very big in a relatively short time-period is credible.
So if you're intent on pursuing this, I'd be sure to focus entirely on how you can get growth and adoption with requiring little to no institutional buy-in which sounds almost impossible on the surface of the area you're exploring but I believe isn't actually impossible.
I'm very passionate about this space and want something like what you're describing to succeed so would be happy to do a quick call to hear where you're at and see if I can provide you some actionable ideas on how to reduce the friction / improve adoption of your analytics product.