Reynol Junco on Why Edtech Startups Suck. (We Think That's OK.)
Reynol Junco, of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, thinks "most ed-tech startups suck!" He takes shots at founders who "rarely, if ever" involve educators in product design and read up on ed research. Then he lampoons VCs and investors who "know next to nothing about how students learn" and get suckered in by "flashing lights and pretty buttons." Finally, Junco claims that "it's actually not that difficult to demonstrate effectiveness."
We beg to differ on some of his simplistic assumptions. Former educators are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and forming startups of their own. Edtech Meetups are popping up all around the country. Regional organizations like the Digital Harbor Foundation (Baltimore), TeacherSquare (SF Bay Area), and 4.0 Schools (New Orleans) are bringing teachers and techies together. And yes, the money is "hot" right now. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Sure, the investment community may get suckered by bells and whistles. But if that's all their portfolio companies prove to be, they aren't like to stay suckers for long--especially when they're not realizing returns.
The ease and low cost of starting a business today means that many startups do suck and fail. But the resilient ones fail fast, fail early, and fail often in order to build something meaningful and lasting. The ones that truly "suck" will fade away. It shouldn't come as a surprise when they say that 90% of startups fail.