Monday, January 12, 2015

Education and Business: A Tough Combo

Achival's Blog brings us Why Education Startups Don't Succeed. It's an interesting read, especially for anyone who has been involved in the online education business over the past decade or so. The entire piece is worthwhile, but I particularly like the list at the end. The first bullet is pretty sobering:
Don’t believe that building a better product will make you successful. Delivering something for cheaper will. Even if that cheaper thing is lower quality. This is usually repugnant to most well-educated entrepreneurs.
Ugh. Yeah, that is a bit repugnant. I want to believe that a better product will succeed, but I know that having a great product is neither necessary nor sufficient. I know this because I have seen some companies get paid for pretty poor products while companies with brilliant people and products languish. As long as a product is cheap and has the perception of filling a need (thanks to good marketing copy and/or a well-spoken champion), it has a chance to succeed.

Am I a little bitter when I see someone cash in on a crappy product? Yes, I am. I respect their chutzpah, but am disappointed in a system that can't identify, use, and reward quality.

TechCrunch says that Education Technology Startups Raised Over Half a Billion Dollars in Q1 of 2014. People are still trying to build better educational mousetraps. I respect the effort and hope the good ones succeed.

Over the last couple decades, I have worked for a handful of small companies trying to change education and/or training. Some have seen some success, while others faded away or imploded. I am quixotic enough to keep trying, but realistic enough to know that developing some amazing solution won't guarantee success.

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