Building your edtech business: Four hot tips for startups

Building your edtech business: Four hot tips for startups

In a recent MaRS Best Practices presentation and Hot Tips for Startups interview, Michael Campbell, principal and founder of educational consulting company Forward Thinking EDU, revealed the depth of his passion for education.

Michael and his colleagues at Forward Thinking EDU work in collaboration with edtech startups in the United States and worldwide. The collaborations range from burgeoning opportunities related to the United States’ Common Core State Standards Initiative, which requires teacher development and the creation of new curriculum materials and innovative digital teaching and assessment tools in over 40 states to English-language curriculum opportunities across many nations. (To learn more about the importance of aligning your edtech startup with the Common Core State Standards, check out Michael’s full presentation here.)

Customers in education—including teachers, administrators and parents—are sensitive to businesses that are in it simply for the money. However, they will be very responsive to those businesses that have the same passion as they do for making a difference for young people in today’s classrooms. Michael shared four tips for edtech entrepreneurs who are dedicated to innovation in education and making a positive impact on learners.

1. Target your customer base. Michael reminded us of the importance of focusing on your key customers. Otherwise, you’re wasting your marketing dollars in what he called a “shot-gun approach” that scatters a startup’s message and is not at all effective. Startups selling for the new Common Core curriculum, for example, should focus on targeting directors of curriculum, teachers and even parents to ensure their products or service solutions get to the actual customers.

2. Plan your work. Work your plan. Michael referred to the old adage: “Plan your work and work your plan.” Your customers will be much more confident in your business, products and services when you have a focused plan firmly in place with an end goal in mind. If you are well organized, you’ll be much more successful.

3. Collaborate. Collaborate with other like-minded businesses. In edtech, there are great opportunities for startups to work together on both the tech side and the content side. Education is currently going through massive disruptions and is ready for new pedagogical ideas and mandates, such as the new Common Core State Standards Initiative in the US, which unites several markets into one.

4. Love what you do. There is a way to do what you love and to make money from it. Michael started out as a math teacher and he has also worked in educational publishing. Now, with his educational consulting business, he continues to pursue his passion for education, spreading the message of how a great education can benefit youth today and future generations.


Next MaRS Best Practices event: Demystifying SRED and Other Tax Tips for Entrepreneurs on March 24, 2014


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