Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Eduprenurs, Entrepreneurs and Experts

In my last two posts I've looked at Entrepreneurship Education and suggested ideas for instilling an entrepreneurship mindset in young people by sharing LEGOs approach to innovation.

Both posts focus on the importance of culture (core values, shared goals, failure, collaboration). They also highlight the need for due diligence and consulting with industry experts and potential users in order to develop a high quality product/service.

I focus on these same issues in this post, but turn the tables by detailing the importance of entrepreneurs listening to educators.I explore this through the distinct (and some might even say unfair) advantages that eduprenurs have.
I like Eduprenurs! I think they have a unique perspective on education. If I only had to pick three reasons for liking eduprenurs it would be;
  • They know what the issues are in the classroom today.
  • The have an idea that they are so passionate about they work on developing it in their (already scarce) free time
  • Teaching is a vocation, so to take the decision to not only leave a job they love and replace it with the uncertainty of startups... that demonstrates a lot of passion and belief in the idea.
That's before we consider the empathy that eduprenurs have with edtech startups who don't have teaching experience.

I am sure, like most founders, they thought it would be a lot easier than it actually is. They may even have thought that being an educator would make sales easier, but find this isn't necessarily the case. My understanding is that eduprenurs find it just as tough as anyone else.

Some may regret ever starting down the bumpy road to startup land at times. Whether looking for funding, hiring staff, sales, admin, accounts... It's a new and daunting experience. And that's in spite of having classroom experience and a great product!

Eduprenurs Teaching EdTech a Lesson
I have a few Eduprenurs that I'm connected with, and like to check in with from time to time to see if I can help in any way. I bumped into Julia Winter, Founder of a chemistry game app called Alchemie on Twitter for the first time in a while during #AussieEd this week, which prompted a quick catch up.

I e-met Julia over a year ago through #EdTechBridge, before she had any demos or presentations for Alchemie. Julia updated me with where she was with development and sent me a link to her #SXSWEdu presentation... And WOW! Seriously WOW! I'm not kidding! Take a moment to check this out;
I may have had a few things to say in my last two posts about educators learning from entrepreneurs, but with this presentation... I know a few entrepreneurs who could learn a thing or two from Julia!!

First, she tells an emotive story about the plight of medical students, how complex the subject is, what the pass rate is and how important the topic is... and what happens to them if they fail to master this complicated chemistry stuff.

Julia covers off the "what is" Vs "what could be" that Nancy Duarte recommends. While the game and rhetoric might appeal to the early adopters, she also includes the laggards in her presentation with a single sentence;
“Event the most skeptical lecturers like it”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this Alchemie presentation shows the level of co-creation and collaboration with her students that major tech companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft employ. 

These companies have staff who work from the customers offices and co-create with them...This is also a level of collaboration that a non-educator developer would struggle to achieve in education without the collaboration of educators.

Edupreneur Results: Turning Teaching into Alchemie
If this was the banking industry I wonder if other suppliers might look to cry foul claiming this is an unfair advantage. Why? 

Because the access teachers have to their target market is unparalleled, not only do they have access to potential users... they have the ability to send students to detention and suspend them for not doing what they are told.  

Whatever Julia did with regard to due diligence with colleagues and students, this slide says it all;

How much of a role does classroom experience play in achieving a result like this? Let's ask another Edupreneur. Elliott Hauser is the CEO of Trinket, who has a vision of having code in every classroom. 

Just as I finish watching Julia's brilliant presentation I notice one of Trinket's tweets with their latest post;

Teaching code like we teach languages? That's what Julia said about chemistry, so I check the post out and compliment Elliott on the post, and ask how much of Trinkets insights are the result of the founder having classroom experience. The Answer? 99%... Wow!
We know from organisations like Google, Zara and Lego that proximity matters, so it could easily be argued that these insights come from being immersed in the environment. Edupreneur can go down the hall and speak to colleagues in different departments and into their next class and speak to their potential users.
The teacher/student relationship also happens be one of the best relationships for a startup to conduct focus groups and testing..How many other startups can say;

"Right guys today I'd like you to check this app/game out"

"Sir/Miss do we have to play this again? Why are we having to play this game every day?"

"Because if you don't I'll put you in detention or fail you on an assessment"

Lol. I've sure this doesn't happen, but the sleepless nights developing the idea, looking for funding and sales are going slower than expected and hoped for, might make it a tempting proposition ;).

I'm just back from a Startup grind event with Gael Founder Donald McIver and he said that he's never made a short term decision in his life.

This is something that resonated with me and I've been trying to re-skill for where things are headed as opposed where they are just now. Donald is another entrepreneur who feels that traditional sales is on the way out.

I've explored working with competitors (SaveEdShelf), ideas getting traction without any sales calls being made (Nurph) and ways to improve educator/supplier relations at conferences (Get2ISTE).

There are three points that I would like to close this post with for educators and EdTech startups to consider all revolve around David De Wald's sound advice

  • Almost every Edupreneur I know gets advice from experts who have the relevant skills to help with their business plans, presentations, looking for VC funding etcto help plug any skills gaps.

    Why does the same not happen for our students with entrepreneurship education?
  • How many developers establish the kind of relationship with educators or students in the way that Julia mentions in her presentation?

    Is it worth the effort to seek out and establish these kinds of relationships?
    If the product works so well that even the skeptics are convinced, I think I'd put all my sales people onto selling educators on the concept of collaborating with the startup so the founder could create products like this... solutions that don't need to be sold, it's so good that it will roll out organically... Although this isn't necessarily the case even if the product is a great one.
  • I am aware of a number of Edupreneurs who have great products and services, but I understand that even they struggle to get engagement and sales, just like many other education suppliers do.Why is this?

    What needs to happen so that it is easier for great ideas to roll out easier in education?
    I am exploring ideas and looking for answers to these questions myself, and all involve a lot of collaboration and working with various groups who know what they are talking about.

    If you're around you can discuss it at this evening's #EdTechBridge where the topic is on building and using EdTech effectively.

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