Not every ed-tech startup begins its life by focusing on education, and not every ed-tech founder comes from an educational background.
Take me, for example. Following a Silicon Valley career working primarily on consumer web products I founded my latest startup as an online creative writing game for a general audience. After crowdfunding our initial development via Kickstarter we almost immediately began to get emails from parents and teachers, telling us that our technology was sorely needed in the classroom.
As we began to understand the dire state of student writing proficiency (only 27 percent of U.S. 12th graders can write at their grade level) we realized that addressing this problem represented our greatest opportunity both to make a positive impact and to find success. But lacking a background in K-12 education I was left to wonder: Do I belong here? Where do I start?
Those questions launched me on a two-year journey of self-education, iteration, and relationship building. Along the way I learned that pivoting into the education market can be done successfully and that doing so offers great opportunities both to make a meaningful difference and to build a business.
But the journey is a challenging one. There are no shortcuts, no quick tricks. You have to put in the time and effort it takes to learn this world, to earn your legitimate place in this community. There’s no faking it in education.
And that’s as it should be! Teachers and students struggle daily with myriad challenges. If we want to serve them then they deserve nothing less than our most informed, insightful, and responsible efforts. Schools aren’t test markets where we can move fast and break things. They are our society’s future.
If you’re coming from the consumer technology space you’ll quickly find that ed-tech is different in almost every way you can think of, and many that you can’t. But if you commit to truly learning the ropes you may well find—as I did—that you have unique perspectives and ideas to bring to the table. Your experiences outside of education can help you see opportunities, approaches, and risks that others miss. What starts out as a liability can become a competitive advantage.
Over my next few posts I’ll identify what I think are the primary challenges of responsibly pivoting to ed-tech, and I’ll map out the solutions I’ve found to address them. Along the way I’ll draw on my own experiences with StoriumEdu, both the successes and the missteps. If you’re considering a pivot or have recently done so, I hope you’ll find useful tips and advice to help you along your own journey.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons