Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the first LearnLaunch conference at the MIT Tang Center. The purpose of LearnLaunch is to provide support for the creation and growth of edtech startups in New England. It was a really wonderful conference…for me it was the most like-minded group of professionals that I’ve been with in a long time.
For those who couldn’t attend or were unaware of the conference, I wanted to share my big takeaways from the meetings. You’ll have to imagine my David Letterman voice.
Top 10 Takeaways for Edupreneurs from LearnLaunch 2013:
10. If you serve teachers and students well, you are less likely to see your business model going away. (Matt Greenfield, Rethink Education, @mattgreenfield)
9. If you’re an edupreneur you should participate in an incubator or accelerator that is industry-specific. (Jennifer Carolan, NewSchools Venture Fund, @nsvfSEED)
8. Inertia is the entrepreneur’s biggest competitor because people are change-averse. (Roger Matus, @rogermat)
7. Edupreneurs need to prove they can build businesses; do they have paid adoption, do they have a sales model. (Eileen Rudden, LearnLaunch, @eileenrudden)
6. Measuring outcomes will become a more common metric for value (Matt Witheiler, Flybridge Capital Partners, @witheiler)
5. Fear of the edtech bubble is because of Bay Area over-valuation of companies with high user-adoption rates but no established monetization. (Tony Wan, EdSurge, @edsurge)
4. If CCSS has teeth, the performance gap will get much bigger. (Seth Reynolds, The Parthenon Group, @Parthenon_Group)
3. Teams need experience in education, understanding selling to school districts. (Christopher Nyren, Educated Ventures, @CNyren)
2. We see a lot of edtech startups that have too much mission and not enough business model. (Jean Hammond, LearnLaunch, @jeanhammond)
And the number 1 takeaway from LearnLaunch 2013…
1. Educators to edupreneurs: We don’t care about your MVP. (John Katzman, Noodle, @NoodleEducation)
And just for fun, here’s a bonus item, shared by a school superintendent who shall remain anonymous, “We won’t even look at a product that requires us to buy Professional Development to figure out how to use it. We want simple. Like Apple.” I think we can all agree that there are a bunch of edtech companies that are in big trouble if that opinion becomes the norm!
Were you at LearnLaunch too? What were your big takeaways?
Great list of 10! Quick thought on #2 above – as much as it can be hard to launch a viable edTech business when you’re higher in mission than model; I would argue that the problem in the space right now is that too many companies are high on “model” and low on mission (or devoid of it altogether). The EdTech space needs companies willing to go after the long term solution to the tough problems out there and not just itching to “cash in” on the ed tech opportunity.
Jeff, you definitely raise a valid point. I think Jean was referring specifically to the pitches she hears as an Angel in the edtech space. Also, her point is related to #5 on the list…a number of edtech companies on the West Coast have been funded based on their idea and mission, without having a monetization strategy, and haven’t been able to flip and generate revenue later on. That was actually one of the interesting points of differentiation we repeatedly heard about at the conference….Silicon Valley is more likely to fund ideas without monetization and Boston wants to see a solid revenue and channel plan, and preferably see the startup already making some money, even if it’s small dollars.
Ah – makes total sense. The West Coast VC’s are definitely much more “bubble prone” in general (not just edtech space) than the East Coasters 🙂 West Coasters will fund a big idea on a napkin – East Coasters tend to prefer investing in companies when they don’t need the money.
Makes me think I should move back to the West Coast! Lol!