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May 2014

History can teach us much ….and at the same time reveal business opportunity

Opening my email this morning reveals news of an Ed-Tech “startup” that has just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after having received in excess of $50m in funding. It’s hardly surprising when the amount of money injected into this part of the education market has been so significant in the last two years.

The education market is a strange beast with no clearly-defined routes to market for the provider of a service or product, particularly when that service or product is delivered online.

On one end of the spectrum we have the teachers and schools (mistakenly thought of by many as the core of the education market) with limited budgets, and on the other end we have a variety of educationally related products and services – many of which closely resemble each other, looking to access those very limited education budgets. Yet unlike many other industries, the marketing conduit between the supplier and the market is both ill-defined and expensive to use, especially when exposure is largely limited to either costly face-to-face representation, or costly media advertising options.

business-opportunity-250But there are solutions to this, and many of these lie in the area of collaboration. Yet collaboration seems to be a suggestion that seems to be alien to some, and unacceptable to many others.

We saw all this before in the 1990’s when computers became sufficiently affordable and started to appear in the home and classroom – and of course the need to develop and provide educational software provided opportunity. But then as now, the routes to the education market were limited and with so many “players” attempting to provide very similar versions of software to teach Math, Reading and Writing, many companies quickly folded and disappeared. This period provided some very valuable lessons, but it also created opportunities.

It appears that with the passing of time, few have remembered those lessons, and fewer still remembered the opportunities that were created for those with the ability to think outside the square.

And what makes the situation now so interesting is that the majorty of those with access to the invesment funds, because they are so far removed from the world of education, fail to identify the very real problems in education that desparately need a solution.


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