Author Thomas Friedman once described social entrepreneurs as people who attempt to “combine a business school brain with a social worker’s heart.” Substitute “educator” for “social worker” and that pretty much describes ed-tech entrepreneurs.
We’re not in it for the money. We all want to do good. We’re all here because we want to create a better tool, product, or solution that will help students, teachers, and schools. But we also need to pay our rent and to feed ourselves, so the money has to come from somewhere. In the beginning, the money can come from savings, another job, investors, grants, foundations, but ultimately you need to make money. And sometimes that can feel downright uncomfortable. In talking to other ed-tech entrepreneurs, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this tension.
At an event last year, a successful education entrepreneur, offered a simple, one-sentence answer on how startups should view this tension: No Margin, No Mission.
In other words, if you can’t figure out a way to make money, you won’t be around long enough to make an impact. And trust me, teachers and schools will want to know you’ll be around for the long run before they decide to invest their time and energy looking at your product. Money can sometimes feel like a dirty word in the education space. But as an ed-tech entrepreneur, it’s not a bad thing to be equally concerned with how you’ll achieve financial stability and how you can better help students, teachers, and schools. In fact, you have to think about both.
A failed startup can’t help anyone. You can’t treat this as an either/or question: margin or mission. You need both to succeed. So the next time you find yourself struggling with this tension between having an impact and making money, remind yourself: No Margin, No Mission!
Until next time,
- Luck Matters When You’re an Ed-Tech Entrepreneur
- Give Entrepreneurs (and Teachers) a Break!
- The Mental Game of Being an Entrepreneur
- My Unlikely Road to Entrepreneurship
- Students Can Learn Vocabulary as They Read Online
Have questions or feedback? Comment below or let me know on Twitter @professorword!