Wednesday, 25 March 2015

How I Met Your Awesomeness: Pledge Cents

I have a list of startups that I really like. I like them either because of the culture or because of the problem they are trying to solve. I have never spoken to most of these companies and most don't know that I like them.

These companies also don't know that I put a lot of time into exploring some ideas, and carry out some due diligence to see if these ideas are viable and would definitely be of value to them... before I get in touch with them.

The research for some of these ideas can take months, but the research around why I like the startup might appear to be arbitrary, it's an "at a glance" first impression.

Why on earth would anyone have this weird approach? I hear you ask. It's a story about the able Vs the incompetent. This post is about how I found out that Pledge Cents was in the "Able" camp.

Able EdTech Vs Incompetent
In Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" (Yes I know, the Marmite of literature, you either love it or hate it) which;

"Chronicles the struggles of the innovative architect Howard Roark in his effort to achieve success on his own terms"

A contract for an affordable housing project, Corlandt, comes up and Roark is the only person who can do it on budget... But isn't exactly what you'd call "A people person," unlike his charasmatic and popular former classmate. Here's the conversation between Roark and Keating;

Roark: I like to receive money for my work. But I can pass that up this time. I like to have people know my work is done by me. But I can pass that up. I like to have tenants made happy by my work. But that doesn't matter too much. The only thing that matters, my goal, my reward, my beginning, my end is the work itself. My work done my way. There's nothing in the world you can offer me, except this. Offer me this and you can have anything I've got to give. My work done my way. That's the only way I function.

...I'll design Corlandt. You'll put your name on it. You'll keep all the fees. But you'll guarentee that it will be built exactly as I design it... And this will be very difficult, because it's such a large project. Most particularly because it's a government project. There will be so many people involved, each with authority, each wanting to exercise it in some way or another. You'll have to battle hard. You will have to have the courage of my convictions.

You'll have to devise you're own way of accomplishing this. You'll have to... fight every bureaucrat that comes along every 5 minutes for the next year or more.

Keating: Everybody would say you're a fool... Everybody would say I'm getting everything"

Roark: "You'll get everything society can give a man. You'll keep all the money. You'll take any fame or honour anyone might want to grant. You'll accept gratitude as the tenants might feel"

Keating: "You're getting more than I am, Howard"

Roark: "Peter, you understand that?"

Keating: "Yes"

"This is my idea of co-operation, by the way. You'll handle the people. I'll do the building. We'll each do the job we know best, as honestly as we can." 

I would rather work on EdTech that works and delivers value for free than bring bad products into the classroom. However, my experience prevents me getting paid employment with the good products; and wanting to do things, not so much on "My own terms," but a refusal to do things on terms that involve ineffective products and use methods that annoy educators.

One of my faviourite quotes in The Fountainhead is when we are introduced to Roarks best friend, Mike, who accompanies our hero on his journey. A journey that's made difficult because Roark refuses to compromise his integrity. Mike is introduced to us in this way;

"He worshipped expertness of any kind. He loved his work passionately and had no tolerance for anything save for other single-track devotions. He was a master in his own field and felt no sympathy except for mastery. His view of the world was simple: there were the able and there were the incompetent; he was not concerned with the latter.

I've been paid for selling EdTech that, while it was not incompetent in itself, the CEO and the culture he established was... and products that started out as being promising, followed the leaders example. Would you believe that one of these startups was developing desktop apps before Apple was? #MissedOpportunity.

After spending 13 years at 2 startups that failed to live up to their potential, am I careful not to waste my time on poor, or "samey" products.I was unhappy with the culture, product and sales methods (But there are not TOO many EdTech companies that have a "No poor products. No bad culture. No cold calling" policy you know). There are some, but they were out of reach given my experience.

While I was aware of "InBound Marketing," "Social Selling" and "Community Management" I didn't have any skills AT ALL in these areas... never mind being competent enough to attract the attention of the best suppliers.

Show Your Friendship First
I read a BRILLIANT article by Dave Kerpen called "Always Show Your Friendship First," this was soon followed by one of my faviourite books "Give and Take" by Adam Grant, where I found out about Adam Rifkind (@IfindKarma) and how The Worlds Best Networker Makes Introductions

I was hooked! So hooked that I tried it! The first attempt failed miserably "Collaboration in Edu: How can I help you Acheive Your Goals," another idea where the timing wasn't right... But it sure does look promising now! In fact I hope that the timing is perfect! So perfect that educators will maybe help @PledgeCents "Cross the Chasm" by 8pm tonight after #EdTechBridge.

Image result for edshelf
Nothing is impossible!
Educators rallied round to #SavedShelf
I have "Shown my Friendship first" with supporting #UKFEChat, #EdTechBridge, curating EdChat Information, supporting EdShelf and Nurph, I asked if they wanted some help, they accepted and we collaborated for a while. Despite not making any money with any of this, I have been very well rewarded all the same.

So I would rather work for free for companies that I can see the value in. I want to be associated with the able. Not the incompetent.

So what's my criteria for the able? I am in the Peter Drucker and Bill Aulet camp that Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.

People in this camp think that a great team with a bad product is better than a great product with a bad team. The bad team will squander any advantage they have and, at the same time, the great team will very quickly realise that their product is bad and address whatever needs fixed.

How I met Your Awesome: Pledge Cents   
I've known about Pledge Cents for a while and do you know what clinched it for me? Do you know what put them on my radar? This video was all the research I did initially to decide "I like these guys," and liked them enough to put 2 months of work in without the company knowing.

Watch the video and see if you can see what I saw:
Spot the Difference? What makes this video different from other EdTech orgs?
Did you spot it? Yes? No? Need a clue? Whose pitching the company? Not the CEO like some EdTech companies. The founders are nowhere to be seen!

The kids are front and center! For the entire duration of the video! That says something about the culture of the organisation (ie We're here for the kids, these are our users). That and, for me, there was something genuine about the story, it was created with passion... But that was just a hunch, I just had a fuzzy feeling (How unbusiness like, fuzzy feelings?!).

Meeting Across a Crowded Chat
The co-founder of Pledge Cents, Andyshea Saberioon (@AndysheaSabco), was in attendance at #EdTechBridge's #SXSWEdu 1st anniversary celebrations and, I did something I don't usually do... I broke my cover early and I tweeted out something like

 "Oh hey there, I've spotted an area where you guys might be able to fulfil a need"

Andyshea was intrigued to know more, I told him that it would be months before the due diligence was finished and before the project would be ready to be tested or rolled out. But he asked if we could arrange a skype call anyway.

We had a discussion and I told him what I was up to, how I hoped to help, and gave some timescales (ie Months and months of research away?!).

The Kind of Culture that Give you Goosebumps!

I also found out a little bit about Pledge Cents, here's two things that excited me... SO MUCH!

1) The company spent 8 months working on the initial pilot before scaling and getting more schools signed up. ie They made sure that the product worked, debugged any issues and got educator feedback before deciding to grow. How important is this?

"Many startups never achieve the elusive "Product-Market Fit." Once found, Product-Market Fit transforms a startups trajectory. Before a company finds Product-Market Fit, nearly everything the company does (or should do) is about the search for product market fit. After the company finds it, everything is about scaling: ramping up operations to accomodate a rising number of users."

“Most entrepreneurs start with a thesis and believe that if they build X, then Y will happen. More often than not, their thesis is incorrect. The best thing tech suppliers can do during the planning stages is to work closely with potential customers in their target market” David Feinleib

Growing before you have found product market fit is a recipe for DISASTER!

Here is some advice on this, all of which is included in my

"EdTech Report: Developing Relations and Delivering Value"

(This is not my advice but taking Bill Aulet, Geoffrey Moore, Davd Feinleib and Doug Edward advice from their books and applying it to UK Further Education)
  • "You cannot fake “product-market fit”. To be successful suppliers have to build something people want…and supply products that match expectations. If a product seems undifferentiated people will simply go for the lowest price" David Feinleib
  • "Many start-ups ramp up sales before the product is ready. Some spend too much time on technology. Others build without getting customer feedback" David Feinleib
  • The number-one cause of start-up failure is premature scaling” Start-up Genome Project
When I spoke to Andyshea you could tell they had done their due diligence because he had an answer for every "Ah, but... What if" question I could throw at him.

Holy Cow Batman! KIPP Advise You?!
My number one all time best piece of advice about what technology in education should do is from KIPP Co-Founder, Mike Feinberg;

"Great teaching and more of it"

Technology should either free up educators time with admin etc so they can be in the classroom for longer, or it should facilitate students to learn outside of the classroom.

BAM! That definition nails it! Can you tell that someone with this view of technology advises Pledge Cents?

How much time can, could, would and is (Try saying that fast) saved if a students educator isn't worrying about having the funds available... whether for little bits and bobs for an extra-curricular activity or something bigger? What about the nervous energy that this service could remove worrying about budgets... it gives individual educators control over classroom finances where, previously, they had none.

So when this idea of thanking EdChat Moderators for their time and brands supporting EdChatMods with ISTE costs to a crowdfunding model, as far as I was concerned, there was only one company to get in touch with!

#EdTechBridge: You have the Power to Change the EdTech World... You Really Do.
Image result for nancy duarte ted talk
Tonight EdTechBridge will dictate whether we decide to:
 Stay with "What is" or Choose to go with "What Could Be"
There is one extremely important thing when trying to get buy in and momentum for any product or idea: "Social Proof"

"No leader can hope to persuade, regularly and single handedly, all the members of the group. A forceful leader can reasonably expect, however, to persuade some sizable portion of group members. Then the raw information that a substantial number of group members has been convinced can, by itself, convince the rest. Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favour" Robert Cialdini

This post is again my attempt to "Take the raw information" to see if I can convince "A substantial number of group members, so that the people who like this share the post with their PLN and turn tonight's chat into a party not just a handful of crazy people chatting about unrealistic ideas (No offence meant about the chat, but a reference to the "Lone Nuts" in the video below).

I have spent 3 years being a "Lone Nut," and it's not a great place to be. I've worked at two struggling startups, one of which saw 20 dedicated hard working members of staff, including myself lose their jobs, because the CEO demonstrated poor leadership (Which saw the company go through Jim Collins "5 stages of decline).

Pledge to Join Us... You Know it Makes Cents!
So that's me done. That's why I think that Pledge Cents is awesome and deserves some support. Now, if I have done any kind of job of telling a compelling story then tonight, I hope you will do a couple of favours for EdTechBridge, EdChat moderators and a fantastic startup;

1) Tell everyone to join #EdTechBridge... and by everyone in your network I mean everyone! educators, suppliers, parents, students, your gran and the dog!

2) Open a Pledge Cents account

3) Create a campign to thank someone who has gone above and beyond, by all means EdChat Moderators so we can get them to ISTE, but anyone else as well.

Or, if you are reading this after tonight's chat, check the Chat Archive, and follow the chat at #Get2ISTE

If you can do this and turn this particular EdChat and the general chatter on Twitter from a few "Lone Nuts," to everyone discussing it I guarentee there will be changes with Edu/EdTech relations, as well as in a number of others ways.

Don't believe me? OK, let's do it another way... For the sake of a RT and 1hr 10min of your time  (1 hour for the chat, 10 mins to open a Pledge Cents account and a Thank You campaign), what have you got to lose.

Here's what could happen? It could do the same as the best EdTech does;

"Great Teaching and more of it"

Because you doing this will save educators and Pledge cents on some unnecessary time being wasted by removing the need to make and received sales calls. This will leave both our educators and Pledge Cents staff to get on with the great work that they do. I'm sure that's something we can all get behind... Less sales calls. And it just might make one of Andyshea's advisers day ;).

Do you think you could help a startup grow so fast that they never need to make a sales call to you? Don't believe that it's possible? It's already happened once... Let's build on Nikki Robertson's work and do it again. Let's get the PledgeCents & "ISTE, not bust" party started.

Geoffrey Moore is author of "Crossing the Chasm" and this video highlights very well what impact "Social Proof" can have with getting the party started

Image result for geoffrey moore leaderships lessons from dancing guy
Let's get the party started! #EdTechBridge 7pm. RSVP with a RT

Oh, and by the way, as for "Showing your friendship first" do you think I might be in a better position to get advice from Mike Feinberg in the future?

Do you think I'm in a more "Able" position to work with any companies with a "No bad culture, and No cold calling" policy? Do yourself a favour... and do someone else a "5min Favour"

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