Jan 22, 2015

#fetc So You Want to Start an Education Technology Company?

#fetc So You Want to Start an Education Technology Company?

Why I chose this:
I see the role of Co-op Technology Coordinator very much like that of someone heading up a tech company. There are services provided to schools that require the TC to think in terms of being that support company the schools look to. I am hoping to gain some insights that might apply in my role. In the past, I tried to start a new program at SWAEC that would offer expanded services to schools. It failed to get off the ground, so I am looking for an 'a-ha' or two that might lead to a revamp/relaunch of that program, or a similar one.

What we covered:
siia.net - Education Technology Industry Network

Incubators, advocacy, etc for edutech companies.

Survey for where schools are/want to go: http://bit.ly/2014VisionK20

Also do surveys regarding edutech markets. Content and instructional support are two leading sectors.

Testing and Assessment grew 57% over 3 years and is by far the largest category in terms of dollars. $2.5B spent.

Three panel members talk about starting up, successes, failures.

One is neuroscience measurement for special ed students in relation to attention during instruction. Another brings industry leaders/experts/individuals into the classroom to show relevance of school to real world in order to help curb dropout rates.

Teachers in K12 have a LOT going on. We have to take into account the time-savings for the teacher. Make it very simple for the teachers.

The customers are schools and districts that have the same problems. Solve a problem for one district, and you can help many others. Schools talk to each other, so referrals will help grow your business.

Funding is always a challenge. Trying to navigate/loosen funding can be a challenge. Your info/product must be research-based because that is what K12 wants.

What is the business model? Free/Get what pay for. Confusing set of feedback. You have to make the right decision for you. Are you premium? Are you subscription? A combo? Who is your KEY audience? What specific subject areas or target areas? Drill down to those that are the primary/core group for your product/service. Must learn to navigate the players: user, approver, buyer - different people. Keep different people in the loop in the right way.

You will waste a lot of time if you go for funding first. Develop the model, build the product. Be sure you have everything in order and then raise the money. Preferably, have customers in the 'beta' stage to help get over trials and stumbling blocks.

Have a good lawyer and a good CPA.

Be relentless. Self-doubt, self-confidence, highs and lows. Remove the obstacles. Hire people that can solve the problems they identify.

Make sure you have customers that care about what you are developing. Talk to 100 people/schools to figure out what pain points your are solving. Who is willing to buy and pay for it? If you do not get that feedback and find potential customers, you are spinning your wheels.

NSF can provide up to $1.5M to help get a marketable product to market. Phase I is $150k for highly innovative products, research, etc. If you prove worth, you can apply for Phase II. Want it to be a sustainable business. Expect you to finish the product. Convince NSF that you can raise money if need more. http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/sbir/ Think beyond science - infant education to medical schools - "cradle to grave" funding potential. You keep all research and intellectual property. Deadline is Mid-June and Early-December. 15-20% funding rate.

How many people have signed up to use it? What feedback do you have? How are you using the feedback?

Did a survey to get initial feedback and to reach out to potential customers.

Preferred methods to reach out to customers: Have to take rejection well. Follow up on leads from shows/conf. Talk to Supts, target audience. Networking is critical, especially as a startup founder. Find local, regional events and test out your main point. Keep in touch with those first contacts, they will become your champions.

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