Like other fields that are driven by technology, innovation and research — such as cyber security, biotech and unified communications — EdTech is constantly changing; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
In other words: life in the EdTech space isn’t a non-stop party with guaranteed year-over-year growth. There are setbacks, sell-offs and shutdowns. This isn’t a red flag or a suggestion that the EdTech train is slowing down (on the contrary, it’s just gearing up!). Rather, it’s an honest acknowledgement that all roads in EdTech Land aren’t paved with gold. There are some potholes and sinkholes, too. And one of the biggest pitfalls — arguably the biggest — is something that sneaks up on many EdTech entrepreneurs, and catches them completely off guard: focusing on the wrong target.
Here’s the problem: traditionally, most EdTech companies — and especially startups — target their solution (or solutions) on improving student results. This is perfectly logical. In fact, it makes so much sense, that it almost goes without saying. After all, restaurant owners don’t need to conduct indepth interviews to figure out they need to focus on patrons, airlines aren’t going to get innovation awards for caring about passengers, and EdTech companies are behaving rationally and sensibly when they tell themselves “if we can prove that our solution improves student outcomes, then we have it made!”
What’s the matter with this? It’s that, despite the fact that their solution does indeed improve student outcomes, many EdTech companies aren’t attracting nearly enough purchase orders and investments. Yes, they’re getting some good publicity, but it’s not translating into bottom-line growth. And so, they’re left scratching their heads (and often, pulling out their hair) wondering what went wrong.
Well, here’s the revelation: nothing went wrong, and everything went wrong. Unpacked, this means that targeting student outcome improvement was (and remains) perfectly sensible, except for one detail that, unfortunately, makes the difference. Students don’t buy EdTech solutions: teachers and school administrators do.
And as sagely advised by Inc. Magazine, this means EdTech companies need to re-invent their sales funnel to ensure that these gatekeepers and decision-makers are brought on board early, engaged often, and impressed thoroughly. Remember: whether we’re talking K-12, college, post-graduate or technical, education has been a fundamentally risk-adverse sector.
Teachers and school administrators need to know — not believe or hope, but know — that an EdTech solution is going to both improve student outcomes, and also be intuitive, rewarding and empowering to operate. This isn’t because they’re lazy or incompetent; because they’re neither. It’s because they have a job to do, and making EdTech companies happy isn’t in their job description.
But as daunting as this sounds, the flipside is also true: teachers and school administrators have repeatedly demonstrated that they will enthusiastically embrace — and often champion — an EdTech solution that fits into their world, and helps them experience more professional and personal satisfaction. When this happens, everyone wins: teachers, school administrators, students, and of course, EdTech companies that lead the way.