As an EdTech sales guy who realised that my calls and emails were becoming less and less welcome (And effective), for the last few years I've tried to identify "Where the puck is going to land" as the saying goes in the world of EdTech.
I've explored what major tech companies do differently and, through my EdTech Report, tried to detail the importance of finding "Product Market Fit" before scaling sales and marketing operations.
"Many start-ups ramp up sales before the product is ready" Why Startups Fail
"Sales & marketing departments must refocus away from selling products and toward creating relationships. Partnering with customers is a key component. The primary challenge here is not technical, but cultural" Geoffrey Moore Crossing the Chasm
This post (Which may be one of my last Edu-based posts... Because, well... EdTech is Tough!!!!!) picks up on these same themes by exploring Edcamps and Eventbrite.
Pointless Sales Calls
Making the transition from sales to Community Management has not been an easy one... Especially living in Scotland where there are few EdTech companies and even fewer #Cmgr opportunities.
It's frustrating enough reading books like Hatching Twitter and discovering that the founders became involved with this startup through living in the same apartment building and a chance encounters in a coffee shop. But when I say to some critical friends who know a thing or two about major tech companies:
"If I was in California I'd just camp outside the offices of a tech company for a week until they took me on"
"A week? ...William you'd be hired within a day!"
Instead I have the experience of going to job interviews and, knowing how busy educators are and how much they detest pointless cold calls... not to mention all the research I've done and previous projects where results were achieved without any calls being made, posing questions like:
"Do you REALLY think that you need to be making cold calls to get traction for products today?"
This is followed by an awkward silence and a rather short interview. Then again you're reading the thoughts of someone that thinks sales could be a short term role (See Where Do You See Yourself in a Year), they might feel out of place anywhere.
In 2013 I noticed that over 40 of C4LPT's top 100 tools for learning were either free or tools and/or were created by major tech companies (See Who sells free in Education).
So knowing the importance of
1) Developing relationships
2) Ensuring that companies achieve product market fit as they get traction without making any calls, and
3) Being aware of how annoying those calls are to educators
What do you do? Well, I look for the "bright spots" and pitch in where and when you can?
Who Sells Edcamps?
In April the organiser of Scotland's #Cmgr Meetup, Jamie Johnston, shared CMX's article with me about
How Edcamp Scaled Up 1,500 Community Events Connecting Educators All Over the World
As with my observations with #EdTechChat, C4LPT's survey and Pokemon Go I wondered
"So who is it that has been selling Edcamps to the hundreds of organisers who have taken time out their busy schedules to run these events?"
I wouldn't be surprised if the answer was none. It's probably been the case that an educator attended an Edcamp, found it to be great PD and wanted to get involved.
Educators iterating their way to "Product Market Fit" with an idea and scaling in a way that many a "Disruptive EdTech Startup" would be envious of comes as no surprise to me at all!
A comment in this article that stood out for me was:
"I was reading an interview on EdSurge from 2015, where you had said there was no master mailing list"
"Right, I know what to do" thinks I... I can put some of my curation skills to good use and see if I can help back fill some of this data.
The article estimates that there have been 1,500 events and I saw a Tweet where Dan Callahan had the number at 1,400 in March
Other Edcamp resources that I have curated includes:
· An Edcamp Account Twitter List
· An Edcamp Organisers Twitter list
· An Edcamp Logo Pinterest Board
· An Eventbrite Edcamp Pinterest Board An Edcamp Map with over 1,900 entries with links to websites and social media feeds
I'm not sure if it's obvious or not, but this has taken quite some time to pull together. Is this more productive and/or does this develop relationships more than sourcing leads to make calls?
As someone with one foot out the door of EdTech, I don't think I'm best placed to give an objective response to that question.
What I can tell you is that I've found lots of educators who appreciate this approach... but few EdTech companies. Those that do are doing fine all by themselves... with a little help from Educators, without ever speaking to them.
Need evidence of this? I wonder how many Edcamp organisers who use Eventbrite have spoken to the company?
Who Sells Eventbrite to Edcamps?
So over 2,000 Edcamps. I pitched in and helped out "Just because I could" and because I felt that I could add value in some way.
When curating this information I found that not only were (at least) 1,073 Edcamps using Eventbrite... but if they had used a different registration page for a previous event, once they tried Eventbrite they stayed with that platform for future Edcamps.
I wonder how many Edcamps Eventbrite have sponsored to get that kind of traction/exposure?
I wonder how many sales calls they made to Edcamp organisers to get over 1,000 events signed up?
Like many companies that have a high level of uptake they are:
1) Not a dedicated Education company, and
2) Are free to use
As Edcamps are free and Education may be quite a small market for a company like Eventbrite, they may not even have noticed the way that Edcamps are assisting with their growth.
As CMX says in their recent How a Strong Community Creates a Better Customer Experience article about Urban Sitter,
"When it comes to trusting a babysitter, friend and family recommendations carry the most weight. Social proof at this scale is hugely influential"
I am not an educator so to say that "This product or that is amazing" doesn't really matter one way or the other. Furthermore me taking up educators time to try to tell them the product is amazing seems like a waste of my time and the educators.
I feel that spending a few weeks to pull this together is far better use of my time... Even if few others agree with such an approach.
Take a quick scroll down this Edcamp Eventbrite Pinterest Board and see if you agree.
I Got Bills! Bills! Bills!
As I highlighted at the start of this post making the transition from sales to Community Management has not been an easy one.
This is complicated by the fact that EdTech is going through a transition with more educators leaving the classroom to work for suppliers and the fact that, well... EdTech is tough!!
Educators seem to appreciate the approach that I've taken but the skills don't seem to be quite there yet for the companies who are doing great work and see the value in Community. Others (who have perhaps not yet achieved "Product Market Fit") don't get how cold calls and spammy emails are not essential to their growth.
The best way to get work in Community Management is to pitch in as a volunteer... I've pitched in and volunteered for about as long as I can (And, in some cases, with rather questionable results!). So I may need to move on. More on that in the next few posts.
A Quick 5 Min Favour...
When I was exploring the idea of crowdfunding educators PD through #Get2ISTE, it was not until I was able to demonstrate the value that an Educator provided free of charge and suggesting that the work I put in be contributed to this idea (See I'm An #EdChatMod... Get Me Out to ISTE2015 for more info).
I wonder if a similar approach might nudge the needle forward a little here too?
There are a couple of things that I would like to achieve before moving on. So if you see the value in any of the work I've spent time on since April I wonder if you might be in a position to do one of the following?
1) Sign up to EduMatch (Esp if you are a UK based educator)
Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur) supported members of her PLN and the UK Digital Citizenship Summit by making the trip from the US to the UK
2) Check out Sumdogs regional and national competitions
Michael Sinclair (@FilltheGapLearn) has supported some of my initiatives (and Sumdog have supported some Edcamps), it would be great to help him with his work. (Btw the competitions are free to enter)
3) Help spread the word about Forfar Acadamy's Crowdfunder (@FATech_Ed) for Drones. They have 8 days to hit their £1,510 target and only need £200 to achieve that.
4) Going to ISTE this year? Please check out Frog Education (Who are developing the Facebook of Education) and animation company Plotagon... Both of whom have supported projects like our ISTE resources curation project.
5) If you've organised an Edcamp in the past and would like to see this work completed, please feel free to fill out the details on this survey Edcamp Survey and I'll add the information to the map and other resources (Resources will be shared with the Edcamp Foundation when complete).
If it was not for Bob Baldie seeing past some (intentional) snarkiness in some of my previous posts, there are a number of things that simply would not have happened.
On a personal note, I have a lot of insights from exploring this data and it would be good to finish it. If anyone has an interest in supporting this work so it can be completed, please let me know.
Some posts to follow that will go into how, where and why I have found #EdTech to be a little too tough and/or my ideas being a little too ambitious (Gotta love that "Optimism Bias." Lol).
Time to focus on the Attainment Gap a little closer to home and help 3 kids make sense of some of the questionable decisions I've taken when trying to make a difference.
Apologies if this post isn't a little more upbeat in places, but it is what it is!... And I'm not alone.
When looking at Edcamp sponsors from 2011,2012, 2013 suppliers that were getting a lot of love from educators are no more. So perhaps as well as asking "Who sells free in education", we should be exploring "Who is it that pays the price of free EdTech?"
The CMX article about Edcamps highlights that
"It is, in fact, possible to change the world from your dining room table"
I've done my best to listen to the sector and with the time, tools, resources and skills that I have with not much more than working from a battered old laptop from my dining room table... Edcamp people, you have my respect! Kudos to you ;)