Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How Helping a Competitor has been Beneficial

Five ways that providing support for #SaveEdShelf has been beneficial.

Over the last 2 years I have been exploring various issues regarding the adoption of EdTech, which includes how products and services achieve Product Market Fit, the merits of alternative roll out models and gathering evidence to argue for greater collaboration between all stakeholders within EdTech.

Just over a month ago I read EdShelf’s blog post saying that the company would be ceasing trading at the end of the month. I had been trying to do something similar to EdShelf within UK Further Education (FE) Colleges but was having some challenges. I knew that the sector I had chosen to focus on was quite a challenging one but, like all startups, I still thought I could make my ideas work all the same. 

Benefit #1: Helped Raise my Profile
The authenticity of Mike Lee’s post struck me as did the outpouring of support from his users. As I was aware of the issues I decided to write a post in support of this competitor. I highlighted why I felt that this roll out method was right but, as the model is new there are some teething issues. For some reason this post went viral and helped establish a #SaveEdShelf Twitter campaign and Kickstarter. My involvement with the #SaveEdShelf Story helped to raise my profile.

Benefit #2: Operating in a “Bad Market”…With Good Ideas?
The impact that I had with this and some other non-FE based initiatives was astounding in comparison to my plans and progress within UK Colleges. I got more done in 4 weeks here than I had in 4 years in UK Colleges! This led to the realization that I was unlikely to achieve “Product Market Fit” in FE because, as Dave Feinleib observes; 

“A great market and a bad product is better than a bad market and a great product”

Over the course of the last 4 years I had spent months researching and exploring new ideas around social media, entrepreneurship, culture and technology which were specifically designed for FE Colleges: 

All of this research was part of my attempts to iterate my way to “Product Market Fit,” but the response was luke warm on these idea, despite the fact that they were well researched, and included examples demonstrating impact in other sectors.

This recent activity made me realise I was operating in a “Bad Market.” No matter how good the ideas were, it was going to be a struggle to get enough buy-in to roll anything out effectively. Helping EdShelf has helped me with my decision to shift focus and leave this area of education. See Leaving FE

Benefit #3: Further Education Starts Engaging
As a result I’ve taken the decision to move away from the FE sector. However, as a result of this activity (and somewhat ironically), various people and organizations within FE seem more keen engage with me and get my input. Helping EdShelf has increased my profile in (what was) my target market.

Benefit #4: Achieving Product Market Fit
Mike Lee and myself have exchanged some emails and shared war stories with what we felt went wrong with trying to implement our ideas. Through this experience I have some slow hunches developing! As Dave Feinleb highlights in “Why Startups Fail,” sometimes “Product Market Fit” is adjacent to the area you have been focusing!

Through my involvement with #SaveEdShelf I have had a number of really interesting ideas that *just might* be game changers with the roll out of EdTech in education! Watch this space!

Benefit #5: Finding Like Minded People
I have had a number of suppliers who are also keen to look at alternatives to the existing models, especially with regard to collaboration and exploring new ways of co-creating and engaging with educators. I’ve even had a few job offers which, as my plans have changes and I’m looking to move away from FE, may well come in very handy indeed!  

Five Minute Favours & How Can I Help
I could easily have read Mike Lee’s post and thought, well that’s one less competitor to worry about, but I didn’t. I honoured my standing offer for anyone in Education and EdTech “How can I help you achieve your goals” I did someone a “5 minute favour” and am glad that I did so.

Instead of a competitor I hope that I have made a new friend and potential collaborator. It's for all these reasons that I will continue to collaborate with any educators or edtech developer in any way I can.

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