A small cadre of educators exercise direct control over a large sum of money that may or may not be invested in my venture EdConnective. Here is the context: EdConnective is an ed-tech startup striving to be one of the leading companies in the country to offer effective, widely-scalable solutions for teacher-coaching. Yes, this is what some might call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. However, our team strongly believes that we have what it takes and are positioned to make this happen. Nevertheless, one of our angel investors is teaching the team that it is ultimately not about what we believe. In fact, the real question is to what extent do educators believe that we are solving a real need? How well does our support work for them? As teachers and school leaders, is EdConnective actually valuable and moreover, will it be worthwhile to expose our solution to other educators across the nation?
What Do the Educators Say?
“Produce a list of the educators that have used your services,” is what the potential investor asked of EdConnective this March. In doing so, he made it very clear that regardless of our ability to pitch, the soundness of our methodology and research, educators will have the last say in whether or not EdConnective will get funded. Ventures in the ed-tech space have proliferated like wildfire in past years, and as such I imagine it can be incredibly difficult to separate the signal from the noise. Thus, I really love the idea of placing investment power with the educators who try out new ed-tech solutions. Doing so requires ed-tech ventures to redouble their commitment to their end user, ensuring they are happy, while keeping a finger on the pulse of the real challenges that educators are facing.
Educators: Your First Investors
Even beyond the money, that educators have influence over in this case, educators are often willing to invest heavily in education startups in other ways. First of all, it’s common knowledge that teachers are always pressed for time, running on all cylinders from morning until the school bell rings in the afternoon. Then, they go home to spend several more hours grading the incessant stream of new assignments that must be graded. On top of that, each year brings with it additional regulations, standards, and curriculums that are forced onto teachers’ plates. Somehow, in the midst of this maddening load, educators find time to try out new ed-tech products and services, often volunteering to be the Neil Armstrong for new ed-tech space shuttles.
Furthermore, first adopters often invest finite social capital to get ed-tech solutions used by others in their school or district. When something is quality, educators can often serve as invaluable evangelists, sharing news of something that authentically helped them in one way or the other. Whether it be a teacher who sends a positive tweet about an organization, or a principal who shares your product with other leaders in the district, social capital is often expended on ed tech. All of this goes to say, educators invest a considerable amount of time into ed tech. As such, giving educators influence over the capital investment process is a no brainer.
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