The Risks of Ed-Tech Entrepreneurship

People often ask me how I handle all the risk that comes with being an entrepreneur. I’m never sure how to answer that question.

I understand why entrepreneurship is often considered a “risky” endeavor. You can spend months (really, years) working on something, and ultimately, have it not work out. But I do think that ed-tech startups are often “less risky” that startups in other industries. Here’s why:

1. You can start small. Really small.

PW-32-1.jpgMost of the costs in the beginning for an ed-tech startup come in the form of sweat equity— i.e., your time and your team’s time. And because most ed-tech startups are building software products and apps, they also typically require less initial capital outlay. You don’t need to rent space, the way you would if you were launching a bakery, and you don’t need to buy all this inventory, the way you would if you were launching an online store. You just need a computer, which you probably already have, and a website, which you can get pretty cheaply.

Of course, this assumes that you have technical talent on your team. If that’s not the case, then you will need money to hire someone or pay someone to build your product for you. All the more reason to start developing your own technical skills as soon as possible or to find a co-founder with technical skills. See my posts Finding the Technical Know-How to Build Your Great Startup Idea and How to Begin Your Ed-Tech Startup Journey Today.

PW-32-2.jpgAlso, because of the emphasis on sweat equity in the early days, you can do a lot of your initial work on your startup while you’re still working full-time (see Michele’s post Finding the Right Balance Between Teacher and CEO) or in my case, when I was a full-time graduate student (see my post Six Reasons to Be a (Graduate) “Studentpreneur”). This can significantly mitigate the early risk of launching a startup.


2. More Realistic Expectations

PW-32-3.jpgLet’s be honest, few people start an ed-tech startup with the goal of creating the next tech unicorn. For most ed-tech startups, the goals are much more modest. You want to create a product or service that you think can genuinely help teachers and students; you want to make a decent living from doing the work you love; and you want to continue to grow, learn, expand, and improve.

That’s about it. At least, those are my goals. And because your expectations are more realistic, you’re more deliberate, thoughtful, and tempered in your approach. You don’t take wildly risky bets in the hopes of some huge payday, because you know that huge paydays are extremely rare in our industry. Instead, you just work steadily towards your admittedly less sexy, but inifinitely more realistic goals, which has the happy side benefit of limiting your liabilities in the event that your startup does fail.

So, what do you think? Is ed-tech entrepreneurship less risky? Let me know @professorword!

Until next time,


See also:

  Have questions or feedback? Comment below or let me know @professorword!

Photo Credit: Flickr user 401(k) 2012, Kim S, and Roland Tanglao


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