Back in my pre-startup life running corporate development for a large educational publisher I saw dozens, if not hundreds, of education technology companies passionately focused on solving a single problem for instructors, students or administrators. While the focus should have simplified everything they were doing very few of them emerged from the morass to become compelling, scalable businesses with sustainable economics. Why is that?
Online education radically transformed the long held notions of time and space as it related to educational delivery. We saw commercials highlighting a working parent attending an MBA class in their pajamas. Schools promised compressed timeframes that allowed for a faster time to completion, and extreme flexibility was promised allowing us to fit classes into an already hectic life. That wave is cresting and rolling back out to sea, but its legacy is that it forced everyone to re-think when and where learning could happen, and how fast a degree could be earned. The next wave will challenge those same notions, and force us to rethink that paradigm again, but how exactly that happens could surprise you.
If you’re a teacher, you’ve been making extensive deposits into “data banks” for years. You’ve frugally saved student information system data like demographics, attendance, formative and summative assessments, college and career readiness and other crucial indicators. Maybe you’ve meticulously collected and deposited data on your practice. Schools and districts diligently save school-level data such as climate. We’ve even occasionally borrowed some assets such as census data and crime maps.
Every day I drive my daughter to high school. As we get closer to the parking lot, I have to be mindful of all of the teenagers wandering in and out of the road like dazed cattle. I also have to brave a four-way stop sign, where I am often the only adult at the wheel of any of the four cars waiting their turn.
That stop sign is an every man for himself, Lord of the Flies experience on wheels. I drive a Smart Car, and there have been times where I was glad to make it out alive.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet, pitch, get rejected, and accepted by lots of investors. After building two companies that were venture and angel backed in aggregate of millions of dollars and then being a part of another that raised tens of millions in additional capital, I learned a lot about the world of venture capitalists. My latest position as head of B.D. at Alma has me reaching out to even more VC’s, many who I know, and others who I’ve never met before as we, like all companies, evaluate our funding options.