Saturday, 5 April 2014

EdTech Startups & Beta EdChats - Lone Nuts or Visionaries?

#EdTechBridge started this week and I highlighted Scott Freschet's tweet in my last post and want to raise it again... you may want to "Look away now" (and for the next few weeks) if this topic is not of interest, as both Scott's comment and #EdTechBridge are likely to feature strongly in my next few blog posts.
The reason they will feature strongly is because they have also been topics that I have researched and discussed from various angles with the same goal as the #EdTechBridge Twitter chat, which aims to encourage greater collaboration between educators and entrepreneurs. 

Misunderstadings and mis-perceptions can exist with educators and entrepreneurs and is something that #EdTechBridge has been set up to address - to be an online forum where both groups can come together to better understand each other's perspective and, most importantly, collaborate to co-create great #EdTech. 

But how to write a post that focuses on this point (yet again), in a new and interesting way? Where can I find a story that isn't a depressing "woe is me, startups are tough" tale? How can the point be made in an engaging and fun way? Maybe I can try a Beta Test, a new EdChat, a lone dancer and some science to draw out these points...

Betas Test
Betas (2013) Poster
Betas is a comedy which apparently launched last November, but I only found out about it this week. The show follows the highs and lows of a Silicon Valley social media startup as the team endeavour to become the next Facebook. 

I found that this was a really funny glimpse of the trials and tribulations that a team of young tech developers can experience as they try to turn their vision into a reality. I could certainly identify with some of the issues that these guys faced.

EdTech entrepreneurs 
If you've not seen this you should check it out! I have no doubt that you will have a strange sensation watching it... you'll be nodding along and randomly shouting out "Yip" as you tick an invisible check list about all the quirks and foibles of Startupland that the creators of the show highlight. You'll also be thinking the way these guys portray the issues is really funny... even if it's not so funny when it happens for real!

EdTech companies get their fair share of criticism on social media and Betas demonstrates just how much you need to get right (and how much can go wrong!) in an early stage company... battling against the odds, especially when all you have to work with is an idea and the belief, energy and enthusiasm to make it happen.

One generalisation that I especially dislike on social media by educators is the idea that the only thing companies involved with EdTech are interested in is money and profit. I agree with @Betas Tweet above that the creators did a great job of recreating the world of startups... including the way the team dealt with money and profit Vs building a great product in episode 11, which was one of my faviourites along with episode 4 when the team goes into meltdown mode. This show is worth checking out.

@Mr_Isaacs & @Katyamuses... Lone Nuts or Visionaries?
While there may not be too many Educators who have had a startup experience (although this is a growing community... and are making some really great EdTech), many are involved with establishing EdChats and other online communities.

In the viral video Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy the commentator tells us that there is a fine line between being a "Lone Nut" and a "Visionary" and that finding your first followers can make the difference with the former Vs the latter.

I have been helping Steve (@Mr_Isaacs) and Katya (@Katyamuses) to spread the word about this new chat session and, just before the chat, Steve sent me a message saying something like;

"I'm really looking forward to seeing other people using the hashtag because at the moment it feels like the Steve and Katya show" 

This comment reminded me of Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm in Consumer Markets: A Visual Example" where he uses the same video to explain principles from his book, which explains how the "early adopter market" influences the "early majority".

Moore highlights how new ideas take time, and how entrepreneurs need to persist and be able to brush off rejection in order to succeed. Moore highlights that for 1/3rd of the time the video runs for the leader is out on his own... But he perseveres, and gets a crowd in the end.
@Mr_Isaacs is this what your dancing is like?
While the first #EdTechBridge took place last week there has been months of planning that has gone into this.
If you build an
they will come
  • Steve and Katya noticed that their working relationship was different from others and wondered if there was a need for their idea.
  • They wanted to conduct some market research to test their idea, so put a proposal forward for #SXSWEdu
  • Their presentation at the event demonstrated that there was a market for their idea, so decided to progress with it
  • While doing all this research and preparation they tried to find the early market. #EdTechBridge tweets started appearing 3 months before the first chat.
  • There's much excitement in the run up to their idea going live
  • On launch day their is anxiety about whether or not people will turn up and/or if they'll enjoy the experience enough to become a regular user  

    Sounds a lot like an entrepreneurial experience to me!
Beta version of #EdTechBridge Logo
Science of Character
Are there differences between educators and EdTech Entrepreneurs? Sure there are. Are there generalisations, stereotypes and mis-perceptions that each group makes about the other? Quite possibly.

But I'm not as interested in differences as I am in finding the common ground, and one thing that I do know is that both jobs need a lot of character... I also know that a key message from Tiffany Shlain's "The Science of Character" which premiered on #characterday was to play to your strengths... I'm sure that there are strengths that EdTech entrepreneurs can help educators out with* just like there will be areas that educators can help Edu startups with.

I am looking forward to being a part of this beta EdChat community to seeing what I can be to help bridge the gap. If you work in education or in EdTech why not join this party? It's on Wednesday at 6pm EST RSVP @mr_isaacs  @katyamuses and/or #EdTechBridge

(*NB I do not mean by selling a product here... I'm talking about "How can I help you achieve your goals" see the section on "The 5-minute Favour" in this post on missed opportinties)


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