What It Takes For Startups to Work with New York City's Schools

What It Takes For Startups to Work with New York City's Schools

Nov 7, 2012

New York City, with 1.1 million school kids, 118,000 employees and 1,700 schools, is the biggest honkin' district in the U.S. That sheer size is enough to give any education company shivers, let alone bootstrapping startups, fresh out of the gates.

Last week, Steven Hodas, the freshly minted executive director of InnovateNYC, offered a group of startups gathered at the Imagine K12 HQ, some insights into the experimental program that he is running in New York. (EdSurge moderated the event.) Hodas' goal is to speed up how quickly New York educators will be able to get the latest innovations. And for starters, that means reducing the roadblocks that startups and others face when they try to work with New York City educators.

InnovateNYC is a project of the Innovation Zone, a group of 250 New York City public schools that try the latest tools and tech implementations, explore what works, and share the results with the districts--essentially an "R&D lab."

Before that can happen though, someone has to define protocols for how schools can engage with early-stage companies. And that's one of Hodas' primary responsibilities: to work closely with about 15 tech-pioneering schools and identify processes for how they can better interact and engage young companies.

For now, Hodas is in "listen" mode. The entrepreneurs at Imagine K12 were more than happy to share their concerns about working with a big district like New York, from worries about the transparency around the decision-making process, to questioning how they can compete with the likes of Pearson which has deep pockets and huge sales teams.

Hodas' only guarantee: to follow an open-minded on defining problems and processes, one that involves a collaborative, design-focused effort from teachers, administrators, and entrepreneurs alike. That means considering innovation not a "noun"--or something that will be finished--but a "verb," or a work in progress.

Hodas is also tweeting at @innovatenycedu.

Got a message for Hodas and New York? Share it in the comments below. We'll make sure he gets it.

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