I’ve been very lucky recently to be involved with two fantastic EdTech startups.
The first being local startup Learning Bird, who allow teachers to upload tutorials to their site, which students can then access. As students begin to rate the content, teachers then get rewarded (financially) for their hard work creating the content and uploading it.
The second is Remind, who provide a service to teachers which allows them to send out messages via their website or App to Students and Parents. The key here is that the communication is one way and the message is either pushed as an SMS, an App Notification or an E-mail to those who are subscribed to your class.
So neither of these services are going to change the world, but they are going to succeed in the EdTech market. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m so sure about this? Well its very simple, they listen to their Teachers (users). It appears that a lot of startups don’t listen, are too busy developing to listen, are too small to respond to every message, or just plain don’t care. I find myself questioning why you wouldn’t listen to the people who are going to use your product, the people whom you developed your product for and the people who are in the classroom everyday (the place that their product is most often destined to be used).
So how do they listen? What do they do differently? Well they actually ask for feedback, try their product in the classroom, and meet with their users.
I often go in to see the Learning Bird team, they have become my friends, I go on a Friday afternoon after school (I’m lucky in my job to finish early) and they often feed me lunch and we sit around a table and share ideas, they tell me what is going to happen in the coming months, and then we talk about what would be a good direction for the future, or what teachers would find useful. They actually want to build a product that is going to be used by people around them.
Remind are based in California, but it doesn’t stop me being involved. Their TAB (Teacher Advisory Board) meets via Google Hangouts on a quarterly basis, looking at new features, new ideas and talking about the route for the next few months. We feedback on what we would like to see in the product, and we also get to test out new Beta features before everyone else. The important thing is that everyone listens, from the design team asking about icon designs in an app, to the marketing team asking about new tag lines, and materials to the CEO who wants to know what we think.
The bottom line here is that you are going to be successful in the EdTech market if you listen, create a product which people want to use, and a product which evolves to meet the needs to the rapidly changing classroom environment. I think that the classroom is changing more quickly at the moment than ever before, with 1:1 classes, BYOD, Interactive Whiteboards and more technology than you can shake a stick at. Mix with this Common Core in the US, Curriculum reforms in the UK, and a push towards Project Based Learning and exploratory learning elsewhere, you have a classroom which should be almost unidentifiable to one 5 years ago, except it isn’t, because companies aren’t listening!