Friday, 27 March 2015

ROI Vs ROR... A Tough Sell For Edu Suppliers?

This post looks at some of the issues with the roll out of technology using the current methods that a lot of EdTech companies use.

I also consider how and why I feel EdTech incubators have more and better success than EdTech companies who lack this kind of support, and detail what I have done when taking some initiatives from idea to conception, to replicate the model of incubators. I also suggest ways that others can do the same.

I have spent the last few years staying on my toes, with my ear to the ground, eyes peeled and my head in the clouds... all the while lending a hand where ever I could (What a contorted image that conjures up!), all in an attempt find "Product Market Fit"

"Product-market fit is being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market” Marc Andreessen

In other words I've been looking for something that I can stand tall and be proud of, knowing what I am involved with will stand head and shoulders above the rest (Hoy! Enough with the body parts! Get on with it).

My search for good projects has not been out of any sense of ego or pride, but simply so that I'm not wasting the educators time, or their students. This is education we're talking about here! 

Jim Collins Big Hairy Audacious Goal:
"What's the one thing you can be best in the world at?"

This might sound difficult enough when you have no product and no coding skills. But, when you're only resource is a laptop and an internet connection... it might sound all but impossible!

But it's not when you #Read4Fun (I may not join the chat but I would be lost without the concept behind this one! Here's my Book List on GoodReads);

“The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.
Do not wait: the time will never be 'just right'. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” 

Culture! Culture! Culture!
Through starting where I stood, I researched all I could about the effective and efficient roll out of technology. And I found that,

The primary challenge here is not technical, but cultural 

The nature of educators personal relationships with their faviourite supplier may be testament to this: And a special mention to suppliers who co-moderate chats with educators @SocialAssurity (EdChat: #DigCit), @KatyaMuses (EdChat: EdTechbridge), @Fishtree_edu (EdChat: #NT2T)

If you've been reading any of my "How I met your Awesomeness" posts (PledgeCents and EdTechChat/ClassDojo and like them, you might also find yourself agreeing with this statement too.

So I've just been hanging around educators, trying ideas in different areas (UK Further Education, Scottish Schools, English Schools and the US) and developing "slow hunches" all in search of that Eureka "Product Market Fit" moment, or finding the right market and validation for my business plan.

I would not necessarily have said that I've "Achieved product market fit" but one area where the feedback is extremely positive is the EdChat community.

I have established an EdChat forum on G+ (If you are a moderator and have not been sent an invite please send me a link to your G+ page). I also have a lot of moderators following me on Twitter, so we can spit ball some crazy ideas.

One Untested Product at 20 Schools Vs 20 Pilot Projects at One School?
All of the ideas that I've been working on and people like, were all started quite some time ago and were all developed simultaneously (And almost all ideas were a result of joining EdChats).

Some ideas, like curating EdChat Tweets, were dropped... until new ways of achieving the same goal was found. As progress has slowed with this, it may be worth exploring some alternative and/or interim solutions.

I worked on 4-5 projects at the same time, establishing one pilot project with one individual or small group, and then left them to discuss and explore for a while, then focused on something else. A big influence with this was. EdTech in India: Go Slow or Go Home

So I might do some work on each project every few weeks or if people are testing things, I'll check to see if things are going well, is the idea progressing and looking viable?
  • Is there a proof of concept? 
  • Does it need tweaked any? Or 
  • Is there a flaw in the product/service/idea that needs de-bugged?
  • Or is the idea itself just a cockroach of an idea, that will just bug people if it were rolled out?
  • Is the best thing to do simply to squash the idea completely?
“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 (A lot of recurring comments appear in my posts... that's how important they are!)

EdTech Incubators 
This is why I believe that EdTech incubators produce better products, because the founders can;

1) Go slower because there are fewer overheads and more financial support (Less bills! Yay!)

2) Startups can reach educators easier because the incubator has built up a network of early adopters and advisors

3) Incubators have staff that do certain functions for all the startups, which again keeps the overheads low.

Because incubators can get feedback quicker and can keep overheads lower, this means they can go slower too. 

I have applied for a place at some incubators, and EdTech startup competitions. I have also applied for jobs with them... all to no avail.

I have even reached out to see if I could help out in any way, but got no reply.

So, I "started where I stood" and went about following their example, starting from scratch and in the hope of helping others who are not in their club.

As you can perhaps see my offer of helping brands that I like is not dissimilar to the EdTech Incubators: back the founders and startup ideas I like, and work with 4-5 at the same time... focus on what works and shelf what doesn't for a later date. And progress is being made.

Given my failed applications to incubators, my view of "Just because an incubator's selection criteria does not see it as a good idea, doesn't mean the ideas are not viable" So am happy to help people who, like me didn't "Make the cut," remember Trunkies in the Dragon's Den?

(Btw any incubators reading this, the offer in your inbox from me a few years ago still stands).

EdChat Salesman... Apply Within?
What can suppliers who are in a similar position do? What if a well meaning founder with a great product;
  • Lacks a network of educators to get feedback from, or test their product?
    (I spend a year and a half on a business park with a college 5 mins away and refused to meet regarding any one of a number of ideas that I had?!)
  • Have overheads that means that you can't afford to go slow? You need to get the sales in or the business closes.
As you can see this is a lethal combination... and one that I would argue, is the reason for products are not "Must Have" widgets, gadets and gizmos. This no one person or groups fault... it's something that falls in the cracks of the culture between various stakeholders.

Listening to educators, getting involved with the discussions and finding out what the issues are have helped me. I am also a huge fan of the idea of San Francisco's Circle the School, and believe that there are ways to replicate this outside of California.

If suppliers called their local school, a client, or an educator in their PLN and ask "How can I help you achieve your goals" I think they'd get a positive response. That's what I'm doing, and there is a new and cost effective campaign that's just started @PledgeCents #Get2ISTE

How much exposure would a brand get at ISTE if they supported this? 
Just Hangin' Chattin' & Searchin'
That's what I am doing. I'm going to hang about with these awesome educators for a while, not because they are "influencers" or any other reason, except that;

1) I see EdChats as the place that the early adopters, growth mindset, reformers can be found (Please see my experience with #EdTechChat)

2) I think I can help with any one of 5-6 ideas that others have not spotted as potential opportunities.

While Google saw huge opportunities in search, the incumbents Inktomi, Yahoo and AOL ignored the potential and it remained a side project for them... Look what happened there.

I have no idea exactly what opportunities this could throw up but, what I do know is that any viable ideas could help the two groups I am extremely passionate about: our educators and startups who have innovative ideas whether or not they meet EdTech incubators criteria. I will do what I can to give  their ideas a better chance of succeeding.

But first I need to prove the concept and deliver some results. So I think I will send some crazy ideas to some EdChat friends and see if they can help to grow their chats and improve a couple of things.

Will any of these crazy ideas work? Given that;

"Eight out of ten new businesses fail within the first three years. Even only one in ten venture-backed startups succeeds, and venture capitalists turn down some 99% of the business plans they see."

No! Not all of them will. Even those that do will be extremely unlikely to provide any ROI for anyone.

However, I see the potential with helping Educators "Just because I can" as a good idea, there may not be an ROI... But I can guarantee there is DEFINITELY A WHOLE HEAP OF ROR

I hope to demonstrate the power of this ROR by coming up with some ideas for EdChat participants and suppliers who support #Get2ISTE get value for their contribution, to deliver mutually beneficial arrangements.

Note to Suppliers
When I wrote to some of my supplier contacts about the opportunity to help educators #Get2ISTE, I was surprised to get a few people request to be "Unsubscribed" from the update. I found this a little surprising given that it was a form of support that educators are in favour of. As this is a new idea any ROI will be unknown... But the potential for a sizeable ROR looks very promising.

I'll leave any suppliers who are reading this with some Tweets from some "influencers" in your "target market" and one of my faviroite comments from "Small Giants" and one of the core values of one company:

"We will always do what is right, even if it is not necessarily profitable"

No comments:

Post a Comment