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Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail? Really!

Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail? Really!


In his post “Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail?”
Matthew Lynch described five reasons for a failure:
Lack of market understanding
Startups expect high growth right from the start
take five years for the product to fit the market
Many startups start with a wrong revenue model
Early traction is interpreted incorrectly
All these reasons are correct, but they do not pay the major role, they all are secondary.
The main reason for Ed startups to fail is because they ignore the nature and the history of education – as a human practice. They act like this is the first time in the history of the world when innovations are entering education (well, trying to enter).
It is not. Thinking that only shows the ignorance of the “thinkers”.
There have been many waves of innovations. Every new device, or gadget, or a technological approach (a TV set, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a computer, the Internet, to name a few) has been seen as a tool for revolutionizing education.
So far, innovative waves come and go, but the revolutionizing has not happen.
This situation provides a very clear illustration to a rule that, when one does not learn from history one is doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
That is what is happening with those failing EdTech startups. They do not learn for history of education. And they repeat the fate of all previous startups – they fail, too.
The strategy has been the same for decades: “Hey, teachers, see what a neat thing we invented for you, buy it and use it, it will do wonders for your students!”
Do you know what teachers need? Do you know what teachers want? Do you know what teachers can and cannot do?

This is a quote from my post “Will the Yidan Prize Affect the Evolution of Education? Too Soon to Say” (https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2017/03/YidanPrize.html).

“The challenges education faces today have been facing education for decades. Education has “survived” many waves of innovations, so to speak. Big corporations and small startups develop a vast amount of various teaching tools. Teachers are flooded by innovative tools. It is like you buy a car, but instead of a car you get a kit, a collection of parts, and you need to assemble it, like a chair from IKEA.”
Or another analogy may be useful, too. Teacher are like people who want to buy a car. But everyone offers them only parts, someone offers a windshield, someone else offers wheels, etc. What makes it even worse, all those parts don't fit with each other! 
If you want to start an EdTech startup, start from asking yourself a question, what can you do different from what huge and wealthy organizations have been doing for decades (and continue do it today, e.g. XQsuperschool: http://www.teachology.xyz/xq.htm)?
And one more thing, try to follow the strategy which had led Steve Jobs to his success. He said that acting "hey, we can do this, now let's sell it to consumers" is a dead end. But this is how all ed startups act today. According to Jobs, first they need to learn what consumers - teachers - really need and want, and then offer them the product. Probably, venture capital firms seeking to invest in educational startups should also keep Jobs' lesson in mind.
BTW: often there is a big gap between what people say they need, and what they really need, indeed. That includes teachers.

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