Friday, 18 December 2015

Startups, Growing Pains and Product Market Fit

"More organisations die of indigestion than starvation" David Packard

That's something that I have gotten an appreciation of this week as the UK Digital Citizenship Summit closes it's 5th Week. This post details how and why I'm going to be charting my own course for a few days in the hope that the #DigCit Ship can progress at full speed.

Two weeks ago there were 15 core supporters and today there are hundreds of people all rowing in the same direction. Today there are hundreds of people pitching in all rowing in the same direction but there can be the odd collision of people and oars as we all busy about getting stuff done.

When you've achieved product market fit then you'll scale quickly. Apple pay had 1 million activations in 72 hours. However, scaling quickly means there is a danger that the culture gets affected too and/or other issues arise.

For example, securing funding for 6-10 speakers at an event wouldn't normally be a problem... but when there are as many as 72 potential speakers 46 being from the US, it causes some challenges.
  • What's the perception from others when an event is this popular?
  • How do we deal with this and how do we short list the number of speakers? 
  • How do we find the support for those looking to attend the event with 5 weeks to go, including the Christmas break? 
Product Market Fit: Adjacent to what you're working on 
My involvement with the summit was due to me thinking of ways to assist with the Developing the Youth Workforce, an agenda where the Scottish Government's own document on the topic highlights that

"Throughout this plan it is clear that success relies on meaningful engagement with Scotland's education and employment communities"
"How to achieve better connectivity and co-operation between education and the world of work to ensure young people at all levels of education understand the expectations of employers, and that employers are properly engaged"
But when you try to deliver this and people question the motives without getting the facts and cite things like 

"This is starting to look to like an idea being led by an attempt to 'fix the EdTech sales process' as you put it, more so than advancing a socially beneficial agenda around citizenship, togetherness and ethics"

After spending 2 years playing politics in UK Further Education, as this is coming from an area of education which, on the week it ends it's consultation on Digital Learning sees educators discussing industrial action and the government coming under fire for budget cuts affecting education, it's perhaps best to leave the politics to the politicians. 

This political wrangling led to the organisers to see that Product Market Fit was adjacent to the original plan, as is so often the case. The Twitter founders started out with podcasting and Twitter was a side project.

Iterating to Product Market Fit
As the Digital Citizenship Summit is all about diversity the organisers realised that having an event around the same time and location as BETT would be ideal for UK and overseas educators, as well as for speakers and delegates who are non-educators. This is a decision that was taken two weeks ago and since then things have gone a bit crazy.

Scaling an Idea
DigCitSummit has already proven the concept that they have a unique event. The event organisers reached out to me to discuss scaling the idea. Rightly or wrongly I suggested that an event could be organised in a crazily short period of time.

We've done that. We've organised the UK Digital Citizenship Summit in 4 weeks... but scaling has had it's challenges.

I have tagged my interest in improving educator/EdTech relations onto this event by looking to see if we can use crowdfunding from suppliers to provide educators with professional development opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them. I've suggested that suppliers funding the travel costs.

I've seen the rationale as being both sound as it is based on "Finding the bright spot" with educators and suppliers and have seen this as part of Digital Citizenship... but it appears to have confused matters, quite possibly affected the Digital Citizenship brand and most definitely has caused some unnecessary delays.

Cost Vs Benefit
Some advocates of Digital Citizenship details crowdfunding is an impressive example of digital citizenship (See the answer to Question 5 in this article), so felt there was synergy with what I had seen at education conferences and this event.

But when it's 46 educators looking to attend the event, I can see how this might be seen as more about generating revenue than about Digital Citizenship.

It is frustrating that I have either not articulated my experiences well enough and/or that critics have chosen to spend more time talking about me rather than to me.

I have made a commitment to the Digital Citizenship Summit team and to my connected educator friends. Therefore I will continue to support the summit and will continue with trying to raise funds so that some US Connected Educators can attend BETT and the summit.

The reasons for securing this funding and trying to get these educators to these events have been well documented and make sense to the educators who are supportive of these ideas.

Anyone who is not aware of this rationale is happy to get in touch, but you'll forgive me if it takes a while for me to come back to you... I'm going to be a little busy over the next few days.

I believe that #DigCitSummit Co-Founder will be writing a post to clarify the summits position on the issue of the event and crowdfunding.

I'm now going to spend a few days, independently of the Digital Citizenship brand to see if I can develop some ideas that I've had around crowdfunding and professional development. 

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