I’m going to talk about something I recently saw on Twitter from the entrepreneur and angel investor Jason Calacanis.
His recent tweet was about the nine reasons that people don’t get wealthy. He listed both things he feels are within the control of the individual, such as not learning a skill or not reading enough books. He also listed things he feels are not in the individual’s control like being born into the wrong circumstances.
I thought this was a great concept that I could apply to experiences I’ve had with education companies. One of my favorite parts about getting the chance to work with a lot of different companies, as opposed to just one, is that I get to see from an objective outside view how people’s behaviors, both for the long term and short term, help achieves goals that entrepreneurs are trying to reach.
So today I’m going to share nine things I have observed about reasons edtech startups or solo education entrepreneurs don’t reach their goals. Of course, I’m not going to share any names or identifying features.
Take this list for what it’s worth. Also, please leave a comment to this with your numbers 10, 11, and 12 for why you think people don’t get their product or service into schools.
Number one: they don’t have conversations with the people they’re trying to serve.
This means they don’t talk to educators, teachers, parents, or administrators. And this is a huge mistake because yes, you might be really excited about your idea, but it doesn’t mean that anybody else actually cares about it.
The other part could be that you actually did do have these conversations, but you just didn’t listen to the findings, or you didn’t apply the insights to your product or into your marketing.
Number two: you’re not solving a problem.
Schools have a lot of pressure to meet specific goals. They have initiatives related to their student populations. They have certain things they need to do to get funding needed to operate and improve.
If your product or service does not tie into any of those urgent needs then it may be true that your product or service does not actually solve a problem for anybody. It doesn’t mean it’s not cool, or interesting, or that it doesn’t work. It just might not solve a problem.
Number three: your product or service is not the solution.
In this case, perhaps there is a real problem that you’ve identified. However, your product or service is not actually be a solution to it. Maybe it’s only a partial solution, or maybe it takes too much time or money, so it’s not a realistic solution.
It might cause other problems that make it not feasible to use it in a classroom or school or household.
Number 4: too many features.
If your product is too big, trying to do too much at once, then when the first users get to it, it’s overwhelming and they can’t see the immediate benefit.
When this happens, they don’t use it. They don’t want to extend their free trial into a paid option. They don’t want to refer to other teachers who might also get confused or overwhelmed using this early version.
This relates to the the whole minimum viable product philosophy, which I got some people disagree with but often in a classroom or school where there are varying levels of tech competency, it’s really important to have the scope of the product or service clearly defined and intentionally presented.
Number five: didn’t do enough in-person marketing.
By this, I mean you didn’t build a network of educators or parents who you’re trying to serve.
Nothing beats the connection that you’re going to make people through Meetup groups for parents, especially parents with specific needs, or at a conference for teachers and administrators. Ultimately people don’t really care about your product or service they care about them and they care about you.
They care about the problems they have. They’re not going to buy your product or service. They’re going to buy you and whatever message you have to share. So being there in person to make connections build a network and even, yes, generate leads..
Number six: You tried to outsource or automate things requiring a personal touch.
When you should be getting into classrooms you try to make things happen digitally. You get disconnected too soon to your product development, marketing, or sales process should be done in person.
Number seven: the competition.
Maybe this is an obvious one, but there have been cases where I was using a product in my classroom, and I got the email where the CEO wrote a note to say that they were shutting down because there was another company that was surpassing them and they knew that they were not going to keep up.
Maybe this is because you ignored the warning signs. Maybe the other company came out with some new release or new campaign and you just couldn’t keep up.
Number 8: not enough connection to actual teachers, parents, or administrators.
This means that if you’re not a parent, teacher, or administrator, that you didn’t get enough of these people on your team early enough.
This is one of those factors that is kind of in between in terms of whether it’s in or out of your control. You can’t decide as you’re starting your company to go back and become a teacher and get that credibility, but you could do things like looking for team members who have some more of that authentic experience.
Number nine: it’s the wrong time.
There are some companies that are really innovative but they might just be a little bit too early.
Maybe their product is going to solve an incredible problem, but there’s just not enough awareness among schools or amongst parents to really sustain your company or the niche that you’re serving might just still be too small. The economics just don’t work out before things catch up. You can’t sustain yourself.
Of course, each of these nine reasons is basically based off of just one or a few anecdotes in my head. So don’t take this as some sort of exhaustive list.
It’s based on the experiences I’ve had working with companies or actually observing it as a teacher user.
Leave a comment with your # 10, 11, and 12 for why Edtech startups fail.
Thanks for reading and have a great day.