Dear Edtech Entrepreneur


I came across this open letter from a teacher to ed-tech entrepreneurs, which I recommend to anyone planning to reshape the educational landscape.

The writer of this blog is a teacher and PD professional, who makes an impassioned plea to developers of innovative and disruptive ed-tech products to spend a little more time thinking, or talking to their customer, in this case, teachers. The essence of her post is that in order for her to recommend any new product or service to the teachers at her school, it must meet several criteria. These include many of the factors any new product or app should have, including an “instant-gratification” UX – no cumbersome set-up time or complicated data migration issues. Also, readily available support from the vendor, including, if need be, a site visit. (This one may pose a challenge for freemium-priced products, but clearly support is a major requirement). Fair enough, but I would argue that there is another factor that determines the success of any new technology in a school. That is, the adoption rate by teachers. Any single teacher may discover a new tool that makes her/his life easier, but if that teacher is the only user in the school, the product will have limited traction in the market. So the challenge for the entrepreneur is to create a solution that makes advocates, or better yet, evangelists, of those early adopters. The user experience should be so compelling that other teachers who look over the first teacher’s ask, “Hey, where do I get that?”. (This is known as the Instagram adoption model.) If it results in some measurable parameter improving by a standard deviation or more, then it is likely that it will get the attention of other teachers, and perhaps even the principal.  The adoption rate will increase geometrically if this achievement can be obtained while decreasing costs or time spent on a mind-numbing task. According to the teacher-blogger Ms. Estrella, the worst offenders apparently are grade-book and learning management systems.



About Startup Angel

Gordon is a 25 year veteran of start-ups in the field of digital education and learning management, having founded an e-learning software company (Meliora Systems) in1988. He took the start-up from the bootstrapped stage to an IPO in 1998, through a merger with Paul Allen’s company, Asymetrix Learning, now part of SumTotal Systems, a leading LMS provider. Since leaving the company in 2000, he has spent his time working with early stage ventures in the ed-tech sector, including both K-12 and higher-ed markets, as well as start-ups developing innovative offerings in the digital publishing, virtual worlds/MMO games for kids, and mobile learning areas. He is also a mentor at Georgia Tech's ATDC as well as Managing Director of Vernon Bridge Ventures, an early stage capital/advisory firm. He serves on the advisory boards of Excelegrade, Evirx, Rapid LD, and Proving Ground. He is also Past President of Atlanta Technology Angels. He serves on the selection committees for Venture Atlanta and TAG Top 40. He also serves as a guest lecturer and business plan competition judge at Georgia State, Emory and University of Georgia business schools. He has made angel investments in mobile learning, online language training and employee wellness companies, and in virtual world start-ups.
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