Advice for the Edupreneur: Getting Started

Market Insight
If you can build a better mousetrap, then you’ll need to build a better path to your door.
By: 
Charles Sosnik

For EdTech entrepreneurs, having a better mousetrap is rarely enough. With all the competition, the world is unlikely to beat a path to your door. The simple truth is you have over 7,000 recognized EdTech brethren who have the same thing in mind – secure a school or district contract. So, what do you need to know and where do you start?

To begin, here are a not-so-few fast facts. In the United States, there are:

  • 14,042 public school districts
  • 395,394 district and school decision-makers in admin positions
  • 115,791 public schools
  • 54,542 public elementary schools
  • 14,937 public middle schools
  • 22,333 public high schools
  • 2,681 public k-12 schools
  • 4,792 public alternative schools
  • 3,215 public magnet schools
  • 1,791 public special education schools
  • 1,322 public vocational education schools
  • 6,275 charter schools
  • 23,671 private schools
  • 5,319 Catholic schools
  • 58 million school-aged children

With $56 billion spent annually on school technology, there would seem to be some easy pickins’ in there for you, except, of course, for the 7,000 other EdTech entrepreneurs trying to secure a school or district contract. After you have run out of friends and family in your contact list, you’ll want to take time to understand what other edupreneurs have done to find success.

Building a better mousetrap is paramount. Creating a technology solution that increases learning is the necessary first step. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything. Once you build a better mousetrap, however, you need to build a better path to your door. And once you do, you need to understand why your prospect list of 14, 042 districts serving 115,791 schools buys technology, when they buy technology and why they will buy it from you.

In the school market, price never sells. Lack of price sells, but that can be a very costly proposition – both for the buyer and for you. In the modern world of education commerce, some companies skip the step of building a better mousetrap and just give away the mousetrap. This model, known to most people as freemium, is something that should be avoided unless you have extremely deep pockets.

If you have built a superior education technology product and you are ready to sell it, you should follow these well-defined steps.

  1. Determine who the end user is: Who did you build this for? Who will it help? Is there a target age range for this end user?
  2. Determine what your product will/should replace in the curriculum: Is there something already in use that attempts to solve the problem you can solve?
  3. Determine the likely time spent using your product per day/week/year:
  4. Determine the best places to find your end user: Traditional classrooms? Charters? Magnet schools? Private schools? At home use?
  5. Determine how will you price your product. For single use? For schoolwide use? For district use?
  6. Determine how many users it will take for you to break even.
  7. Determine how many users it will take for you to pay back your original investment or to service your debt.
  8. Determine how will you market your product. How much money will you need for the first year? For the second year? For years three through five?
  9. Determine who will actually sell your product.
  10. Determine how you will install your product.
  11. Determine how much training is needed once you sell your product.
  12. Determine how much on-going support is needed for each individual user and for each school and district customer.

You need to know the answers to these 12 steps before you talk to your first prospect. Steps one through four are the steps you must take to determine who your prospective customer is. If you haven’t worked through these steps, you won’t have a viable business. Once you do, the real fun begins.

Next month, we’ll take a look at how to gain sales traction and what you can expect.

About the Author:

Charles Sosnik is Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel.

A former archaeologist and middle school teacher, is the founder and president of Dig-It! Games, an independent developer of interactive educational games for kids. Through a seamless blend of fun and learning, Dig-It! Games believes in the power of games to change the way kids learn.

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