At Aspire Public Schools, we’ve embraced working with startup edupreneurs for years. Along the way, we have learned a few lessons that have saved us from some heartache and have also enabled us to get in on the ground floor of some exciting products in the market and influence others we continue to use.
The key we’ve found is to listen carefully: first to identify those products that have the potential to help us, and then to find those entrepreneurs who have the potential to really listen carefully to us, their customers. Too frequently people focus on identifying the “right product” for their school. But when products are still under development, the entrepreneur is as important as the product--because it’s the entrepreneur who holds the vision for the product and will ultimately deliver on it.
You can learn a lot by the questions that entrepreneurs will bring to a meeting. More than one eager edtech entrepreneur has asked us crazy questions. Among them:
These kinds of comments are all red flags. They suggest that these entrepreneurs don’t really understand schools: they haven’t gotten their heads around how we work, how much IT or budget we might have, how we get teachers to do things, how they assume we'll just take what they say at face value, how they (sometimes) think they're doing us a favor.
That said, we’ve also found found much joy in both entrepreneurial and corporate-suite edtech folks who, at their core, listen empathetically to the needs of schools.
When you have encountered a product that could help your school and an empathetic--dare we say, adaptive?--entrepreneur, there are still a few guidelines that will help you build a strong and sustainable relationship:
We believe edtech entrepreneurs are transforming this marketplace in exciting ways and have the potential to use technology to identify and solve major pain points schools experience every day. But they won’t succeed without the engagement and guidance of schools!