38dd85dbaa094205809f10b89d7e0de8A guest blog from Alan Maguire of Versari Partners

Friday 13th is unlucky for some but today is a great day for Irish Edtech: Startup Weekend Edu has come to Dublin and the first event starts tonight. Versari first got exposed to the event as one of the judges in London some years back and we are proud to be a sponsor of the global phenomenon’s first incarnation in our hometown. May it be the first of many.

Although not specifically in this context, two particular posts caught my eye recently which could arguably be required reading for tonight’s nascent Edupreneurs in Dublin.

First off, this cracking piece from Michael Horn at edSurge which analyses Amplify’s dramatic fall from grace and recent rebirth. There are multiple lessons to be learned here but one stands out for me: ‘It is not about the tech. It Is About The Teachers’ Load’.

Of the hundreds of edtech businesses we have seen in recent years, it is astonishing how few promoters understand the educator’s workflow.

Great idea? Check.
Shiny New Technology? Check.
Wildly passionate founding team? A given.
But where will this fit in the educational process? Dunno mate! Why does that matter?

In some ways, it’s the only thing that matters. Knowing were, how & why your solution makes existing processes easier is critical to getting people to understand, use & buy it. If you’re going to make something that is currently hard for me much easier, you had me at hello. If you’re asking me to do something different, it’s not impossible but it is a much, much harder conversation. Harder conversations take longer. Long sales cycles are the enemy of scale. It’s almost that simple.

Which leads me to post # 2 by Loren Padelford and a favourite topic of ours. Loren is flagging a macro shortage of sales skills that we’ve long experienced here in Ireland, appears to be increasingly endemic globally but, regrettably, that we won’t fix in this post! At a more micro level, what is relevant – especially to our start-up weekenders – is an understanding that a sales competency is as important as any other in turning your brilliant idea into a business. We don’t expect edtech ventures to come pre-packed with high performing commercial skills – they are harder to acquire than that. But we do like to see promoters demonstrate an understanding (at least) that commercial execution is required to scale. Even as I write, this sounds so blindingly obvious and yet Padelford’s post demonstrates how widespread this failing is.
So good luck to all our first Irish Startup weekend-ers tonight through Sunday. And as you break into your teams to dream up the next Udacity, rest assured that few will doubt the efficacy of your solution. Where it will fit & How you will sell it might be less sexy questions. But they might be the more important ones that you have to answer