Entrepreneurship is a Journey
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve all heard this phrase used to set the context for those about to take their first leap into entrepreneurship, and I think most seasoned entrepreneurs would agree with the point it’s trying to make. The development and sustainment of a successful startup doesn’t just happen overnight; it takes months upon years of hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and execution to produce a venture that’s secured product market fit and established a solid foundation to ensure its livelihood for years to come. Due to the various obstacles entrepreneurs will have to overcome and the wide range of emotions they will experience trying to turn their vision into reality, some might argue that entrepreneurship is neither a marathon or a sprint – it’s moreso a marathon, a sprint, an Ironman Triathlon, Tough Mudder, and Tour de France all rolled into one, while carrying 50lbs on your shoulders.
No matter what you compare it to, the fact is, becoming a successful entrepreneur and building a successful startup is quite the arduous process. Success doesn’t just happen; large amounts of time and energy must be invested over extended period of times, and throughout various stages of the company’s development. Recognizing this, UP Global, created The Entrepreneurs Journey. Broken up into six stages, The Entrepreneurs Journey outlines the specific phases every entrepreneur goes through in pursuit of creating a prosperous venture. In order to ensure entrepreneurs’ needs are met at every stage, UP Global has created complementary programs for each one, including Startup Digest, Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Week, and Entrepreneurs Across Borders.
Education Entrepreneurship is Unique
Recognizing that entrepreneurs aiming to build education businesses face unique problems (e.g. developing products that align to both the needs of students and teachers, securing pilot opportunities in schools, navigating government policy around student data), UP Global developed Education Entrepreneurs. The goal of Education Entrepreneurs is to create a suite of programs and resources specifically to meet the needs of education entrepreneurs. Beginning with the popular “turn your idea into a startup in 54 hours” program called Startup Weekend Education, Education Entrepreneurs offerings have expanded to include Startup Digest Education, Bootcamps, and Summits. Whether interested in exploring different options to innovate in education, excited by the opportunity to build a prototype in a weekend, or ready to jump full steam ahead into the world of being an official edtech founder, Education Entrepreneurs is giving more people than ever the opportunity to utilize entrepreneurship and technology to solve problems in education.
Partnering With Imagine K12
In the past year alone, Education Entrepreneurs has expanded from 12 to 74 events, 9 to 59 cities, 3 to 24 countries, and 2 to 6 continents. This means nearly 7,000 people around the world have joined our community and are engaging in the innovation process. As we help increasingly more people enter education entrepreneurship, we want to make sure they have access to the best resources, mentorship, and funding opportunities throughout their journey. Earlier this year, we partnered with edSurge, the leading source of news and resources on education technology. This partnership has provided our community with access to important and timely content, valuable resources, and unique opportunities.
Today, we’re excited to announce that we are partnering with Imagine K12, the leading edtech accelerator. This partnership will give our education entrepreneurs better access to crucial mentorship and funding opportunities to scale their ventures and ensure the solutions they develop actually reach the learners they were designed to help.
Since 2011, Imagine K12 has cultivated hundreds of edtech entrepreneurs and companies by providing them with funding, mentorship, connections, and incredible guest speakers, like Mitch Kapor, founder of Kapor Capital, Eric Ries, founder of The Lean Startup, and Paul Graham, founder of YCombinator. Here’s some data highlighting Imagine K12 results to-date:
Launched more than 70 companies
Imagine K12 companies have raised more than $120 million
More than 10 million students and more than 1 million teachers are using Imagine K12 products
Remind, 2014 Educators Top Messaging App
Code HS, 2013 NBC Innovation Challenge
Hapara, 2013 NYC Schools Gap App Challenge
Raise Labs, 2013 GSV/ASU Education Innovation Summit
LearnSprout, 2013 MBA Impact Investing Network
Bloomboard, 2012 SXSW LAUNCHedu K-12
NoRedInk, 2012 NBC Innovation Challenge
ClassDojo, 2011 NBC Innovation Challenge
Over the past three years, several Startup Weekend Education and Startup Weekend alumni have been admitted into the Imagine K12 cohorts, including the founders of Class Dojo, NoRedInk, Blendspace, Plickers, Learning Jar, and Tioki. With a goal of connecting even more Startup Weekend Education alumni to valuable funding and mentorship opportunities, our new partnership with Imagine K12 will give all first place winners of Startup Weekend Education events a guaranteed interview with Imagine K12’s investment team, if they choose to apply. All teams participating in Startup Weekend Education events as part of the Education, Empowered Track during Global Startup Battle this weekend and next (November 14th-23rd) are eligible for this opportunity, and local Facilitators and Organizers will be equipped to answer participant questions.
As Education Entrepreneurs grows over the years, it is our goal to support education entrepreneurs at every single stage of their journey, and we’re excited that our partnership with Imagine K12 will help us achieve that.
More About Imagine K12
Imagine K12 is a startup accelerator for companies that are creating innovative technology solutions to enrich and transform K-12 education. Starting a company is hard, and the education market presents unique challenges. Imagine K12 has a singular goal: improving your company’s chances of success. They do this through a combination of strategic advice and mentorship; supportive networks of investors, educators, and entrepreneurs; and a small amount of initial funding (about $100,000). Over the past three years, Imagine K12 has helped to launch 70 companies, which have collectively raised over $120 million in funding and reached millions of classrooms around the country. Read why Imagine K12 is excited to partner with Education Entrepreneurs.
Effective EdTech tools come from effective engagement with teachers. Instead of throwing solutions into the over-crowded paths of teachers, reach out and connect. Get ahead by gaining teacher feedback early and often.
Top Reasons To Engage With Teachers Early
Engaging with teachers early will ensure you have a valid product fit with your customers. It will also save you valuable time as you will be building a viable product that solves a real problem.
What You Can Gain From Early Engagement:
You need to know about your competition and what tools teachers are currently using.
Learn from the mistakes of others and find out what tools teachers have ditched and why.
You need to understand a typical daily routine of a classroom: Technology must be easily integrated.
You need to know the limitations and barriers teachers face when adopting new Technology into a classroom.
Teachers can help you to understand the politics of entering the school system.
What you think may be simple and easy to use, may be surprisingly unclear to your users.
Teachers can be the voice of parents and students.
“After speaking with teachers I realized there were so many things I had not thought of. The only way I could of found these things out was through talking to teachers.” Bret Kopf, Co-Founder, Remind
Top Reasons To Engage With Teachers Often
Education is constantly changing and you need to keep up to date with what is happening. Demands on teachers and students constantly change and new EdTech tools are being created rapidly to address these challenges. You need to keep in front of teachers. What you can gain from engaging often:
You need to know if your product is user friendly and easily adopted by the intended audience: teachers / students / parents.
You need to know if a better solution has been created- find out about new competition.
Save your time and efforts by finding out what features teachers use most from your product and which ones they don’t use.
Get ideas for new features through teacher requests.
Technology can run into problems and teachers don’t have time to waste- find out what hinders them from using your EdTech.
Find out if teachers are using your EdTech frequently and if not, why?
Test your hypothesis. Did your EdTech solve the problem?
Find out if you need to pivot. Are teachers using your EdTech to solve an entirely different problem that you intended?
Don’t solely rely on feedback from existing users who know your product. Get out there and find fresh eyes.
What You Need To Ask Teachers
Ask before you build. Teachers spend their days encouraging and fostering inquisitive minds in their students. Make a teachers day and ask them questions. Make sure your EdTech solves a problem.
- What problem can I solve for you and your students?
- What are your biggest pain points?
- How often do you struggle with this problem?
- What other solution / EdTech do you currently use to help solve this problem?
- What are the problems with existing EdTech tools that address this problem?
- If you could have any feature added to the current solution you use, what would it be?
- What is your biggest turn on / off with new EdTech tools?
- Tell me about a good / bad experience you had with an EdTech tool?
- What are your biggest challenges when adopting new technology?
3 EdTech Companies Who Successfully Engage With Teachers
Finally I want to share some great words of wisdom from 3 very successful EdTech companies who believe in the power of engaging with teachers early and often.
Remind states their mission on their website: “We listen before we build.”
These companies continue to build both their products and their users base through dedicated collaboration with teachers.
This article is written by Startup Weekend Education organizer, Karl Rectanus.
After speaking on a panel to some of the brightest undergraduate students from the US and Mexico last week, I decided something: Entrepreneurs have become too cool.
Entrepreneurs are the “lead guitarist” of the 70’s, the “stock broker” of the 80’s, the movie star, the striker on the World Cup team, and the point guard. Miles Davis driving an electric sports car through the middle of a Vegas night club. Being an entrepreneur is all sparkly photos, fast talking and billion dollar exits. Right?
Don’t believe the hype… The reality is entrepreneurs are people who solve problems for a distinct market, usually with a lot of hard work and limited resources.
So, when one of those bright undergrads asked me how I went from the classroom to the “glories” of entrepreneurship, I realized something else:
Teachers are real entrepreneurs.
Every day, educators are solving problems for their distinct market (their classroom of students) with a lot of hard work and limited resources. They help the students who excel and those that struggle. They invent and deliver solutions, with learning, analysis, communication, self-awareness, persistence and critical thinking as the commodity of trade. They help students move ahead on the next quiz, in the next grade, to the next level in the real world.
Do we celebrate teachers as entrepreneurs? Not always.
That’s why I’m ecstatic that our region’s next installment of Triangle Startup Weekend is Education focused. The event — at an amazing venue, The James Hunt Library on Centennial Campus at NC State on July 18-20 — will bring educators, mentors, celebrity judges and rewards to help make new ideas into new realities. Educators and engineers, problem solvers and critical thinkers, collaborators and visionaries will gather for 54 hours of invention, competition and new solutions.
So, if you’re a teacher, a student, or a regular old non-movie star that wants a dose of how real entrepreneurs create solutions, then sign up and participate. Learn more and register.
Karl Rectanus, an educator and entrepreneur, is the CEO of Lea(R)n, Inc. an award winning early-stage company bringing quality control to education technology.
picture via The Guardian.
Come join the party! The Baltimore EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit aims to ensure that educator voices are heard by the innovators building educational tools for schools. Educators also want to discover and play with cutting edge tools.
“This will be the first time that companies, teachers, and districts will be in the same space to talk about how we can make purposeful decisions about what the best edtech companies have to offer our instruction and learning for our kids,” says Jenna Shaw, middle school teacher at Patterson Park Public Charter School in Baltimore City.
“We can be hands-on, ask the questions that really matter, and make decisions around innovative instruction and curriculum development,” she adds. “These conversations often happen in silos, and the Summit allows a space for everyone dedicated to making education better to dream big about the future.”
Ellen Craviotto, an elementary teacher from Peabody Charter School, traveled from Santa Barbara to Mountain View to participate in a similar EdSurge Summit in Mountain View last November. “I have been teaching for 24 years and it was the first conference I have gone to that I really felt the spirit of collaboration between the companies and the teachers.”
In the Baltimore area February 22? It’s not too late to register!
DATE: Saturday, February 22
TIME: 9:00 am to 3:30pm (Breakfast, lunch and snacks all provided!)
PLACE: Four Seasons Baltimore Free parking for educators!
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Meet, talk with entrepreneurs building technology. Try out what they’re building. Give them feedback on what you need in your class
MID-DAY BRAIN BOOST: Only one panel! Get the real scoop on implementing blended learning from the people who really know–students.
EXTRA EXTRA! VIP Keynote: Deputy Director James Shelton will share a few words to kick off the event.
MSDE CREDIT: Teachers can opt to earn MSDE credit for participation. Yes, free MSDE credit!
Can’t make the Baltimore EdSurge Summit? Stay tuned for info on upcoming EdSurge Summits in other cities!
We have an amazing organizing team filled with former teachers, entrepreneurs, startup weekend graduates, and people 100% dedicated to finding solutions to education’s most persistent challenges.
Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) San Francisco Team
- Jessica Falkenthal is an edtech startup aficionado and marketing guru.
- Kristina Lawyer is a former elementary school teacher in Hawaii and Quantitative Research Analyst at Stanford University.
- Evan Samek is an education entrepreneur and Founder of ImagiLabs
- David Shackelford is a former classroom teacher in San Francisco and Teach for America Corps Member, and currently is a Product Manager at Education Elements.
- Maggie Croushore is a former middle school English teacher in DC and Teach for America Corps Member, and currently is the Founder of KidFit Academy.
A Life-Changing Experience
Early on in our planning conversations, my Co-Organizers and I knew that we wanted to do a special workshop just for teachers leading up to our SWEDU San Francisco on Nov 22nd. Three out of five of us are former classroom teachers, so it made sense for us to hold an event specifically for educators to prepare them for the weekend. And for me, in particular, this idea hit close to home.
I remember when I attended my first SWEDU as a teacher last year. I was incredibly nervous, as I had never before been exposed to entrepreneurship and had no idea what to expect. However, as I drove to the event, I gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone in a room full of complete strangers and pitch an idea that had been ruminating in my mind for some time. And I am so glad I did! I ended up creating KidFit Academy, and I can honestly say that SWEDU changed my career path. I would not be where I am today without it. And so my Co-Organizers and I wanted to make sure other teachers get the same opportunity to play a leadership role in creating great solutions to their own problems in the classroom.
From the beginning, we knew that we not only wanted to recruit some amazing teachers for our event, but we also wanted to connect teachers to the growing education technology sector in a real and meaningful way. After some conversation, we decided on the following overarching goals for the workshop.
- Introduce educators to the concepts and skills needed for startup weekend
- Begin cultivating a community of educators dedicated to entrepreneurship
- Empower educators to use entrepreneurial skills to problem solve pressing educational issues
- Provide a safe and supportive learning space for educators to brainstorm and practice pitching business ideas for upcoming SWEDU
A Big Success
Through our event, we were able to accomplish several of our key goals. First, we were able to recruit some amazing teachers for our event. After participating in our dynamic workshop, these teachers will be even more prepared for an amazing SWEDU experience. Also, by exposing teachers to the power of their voice in the education innovation movement, we were able to open the dialogue for future conversations bringing together education startups and teachers.
It is important to communicate to teachers that SWEDU is not just for those that might be thinking of joining or founding a startup. Classroom teachers do not have to leave the setting of a school, in order to make an impact in the edtech world. I know that as a teacher, I was intimidated by these type of events; however, throughout the weekend, I quickly realized that I not only had a lot to add to the conversation, but I also was an asset to my team. Only us teachers have the experience of seeing many problems up front, on a daily basis, and that experience is a value-add to anyone interested in solving those problems.
At the end of our workshop, it was inspiring to see some attendees share their problems and proposed solutions. Just imagine! If they can come up with such great ideas in less than hour, what could they come up with over the course of a 54-hour weekend?
Replicating the Model
After a while, those of us in the startup scene sometimes forget that not everyone speaks the language of entrepreneurship and that can be incredibly intimidating. Having a teacher-centric event not only shows teachers how important they are, it acts as preparation for the weekend. By hearing from former educators-turned-entrepreneurs and participating in a startup weekend mini-simulation, teachers walked away from the event with a better understanding of entrepreneurship, as well as a strong pitch for the weekend or beyond. Teachers already engage in the thinking behind entrepreneurship; they just might not realize it, because they call it something different—good teaching.
I would absolutely recommend that future SWEDU Organizers implement this type of workshop prior to their event. Teachers need to be in the dialogue when it comes to education products and startups, as they always think of their students and have the ability to see things that others may not. Teachers are an essential part of the SWEDU puzzle, and the better you prepare them for the weekend ahead, the more empowered they will be to contribute their experience and skill-set to the development of solutions to some of education’s biggest problems.
Join us this weekend at SWEDU San Francisco, Nov 22-24