Are you considering starting an EdTech startup?
Be ready for a bit of a shock.
If the educational industry was show business, Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around... Comes Around” would be a fresh hit.
Yes, the innovation has been a bit slow in education, but...
Relatively slow progress also means an excellent opportunity to build or grow your company in the first year. If your product has a market need, you can achieve impressive results, get noticed, and secure funding to become the next Coursera-caliber business.
If this sounds enticing to you, let’s get you started. Go over these five essential things to keep in mind before starting a startup in EdTech.
Some entrepreneurs make a mistake by falling short on market analysis. Sure, the educational market isn’t the most saturated one, but new companies and solutions pop up every day, and the competition is getting tougher. Besides, a lack of market need is the top reason why startups fail.
So, don’t stop when you identify a problem. Continue researching the market until you’re sure that it’s a real problem for a specific group of people.
If I were you, I would get my Watch Dog on and try to infiltrate a university lecture, arrange a spot for observation in an elementary school’s classroom, a webinar or what’s most relevant to your problem. I would then pour down unhealthy amounts of coffee to get my pen on paper going while trying to identify all the situations where my solution would serve a need.
The most effective research methods:
👉 Customer surveys. Create a survey to ask your target about the most pressing problems they’re having. Distribute that survey on education forums, online survey platforms, and offline
👉 Customer interviews. The most insightful research method which gives you detailed information. Arrange face-to-face or video interviews with target customers and record their answers to find useful insights
👉 Customer observations. Researchers observe how target customers use a similar product or try to solve a predefined problem.
👉 Scholarly research studies. Search for studies that are related to your predefined market need. The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is a good place to start finding research journals and studies.
These research methods should provide enough information to help you understand if the problem you proposed is worth solving.
How to start a startup company the right way? Customer focus. Not fancy layouts or endless advertising campaigns. When Grammarly launched an online proofreading tool back in 2009, the final version of the app didn’t look so great. The app had a simple editor with basic grammar check features.
Here’s the view of the Grammarly editor, as brought back to life by the Wayback Machine.
Why did the company decide to give the green light to that?
Grammarly business managers didn’t try to make the perfect app from the get-go. They focused on getting and applying user feedback, which involved visits to universities in Europe and the U.S. and making a strong effort to collect insights with interviews and online forms.
The result was a continuous flow of useful feedback. It shaped Grammarly of today - with 20+ million daily users and over $200 million in investments. Now, the company has enough money to have AI looking for user feedback insights.
The takeaway here is that launching a useful product is more important than public image, perfect design, and millions of investments. A quality product that has real value for your target audience has a better chance to be successful than a highly promoted product.
Examples of software projects that failed even despite top-notch PR and millions of investments are everywhere. The latest one is the video game Cyberpunk and the numerous complaints the game received after the launch.
Designing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of your future app is a major milestone. At this point, the time to start reaching out to potential investors is approaching soon.
Your MVP needs to go through user validation before you try to attract some interest and funding. Often, that means numerous rapid changes in design based on the feedback provided during the validation tests.
Be ready to test many ideas within short timelines. No EdTech product can be successful without improvements during the user validation stage, so make sure your UX designers and developers understand that, too.
About 52% of SaaS companies increased their spending on user retention, and for a good reason. User retention is a major challenge for all software businesses, as proving the usefulness of their products becomes harder due to tougher competition.
Retaining users is essential for your EdTech startup because returning users typically pay more and cost less to obtain.
Here are the most common user retention strategies:
Share useful content on your blog
SaaS content writing is all about explaining how to use your product to solve their problems quickly.
In this blog post, Grammarly staff explains (yes, I know we use Grammarly a lot, but continue reading and you’ll understand why) how to avoid the most common writing mistakes during the finals. A student looking for help will definitely find this useful, especially when he or she can check their writing for free.
Look for new user groups
When Kahoot!, a Norwegian startup, launched its game-based learning platform in 2013, it was focused only on educational institutions. In 2020, there were four versions: Kahoot! for schools, Kahoot! for business, Kahoot! for home, and Kahoot! Academy.
The expansion proves that the company discovered new target audiences outside the education industry. The same outcome might apply for your EdTech startup, too–you can discover more people who can benefit from your product.
A great way of attracting new customer segments is through plus content. Think of the plus as the extra layer to your content writing cake. It’s a way where you find alternative needs to your product. A good example is a microbrewery that wants to reach new customers with their beer. Their plus content would obviously be food pairing. Because the customer segments have a lot in common and can relate. On top of that, think of the million food blogs and influencers in that space that they could potentially cooperate with. All of a sudden, it’s making your product very relevant to them. It’s like magic! Or just thinking outside the box.
Encourage happy users to leave testimonials
Customers are hard to impress, but there’s a way to build a good reputation and retain more of them - reviews. User testimonials are effective to generate leads and customers, so you should encourage users to leave them.
Try these tactics:
👉 Reach out to customers via email to ask them to share testimonials.
👉 Share in-app notifications to rate your software or write a review on online platforms.
Video testimonials are the best kind of customer reviews in the SaaS industry. If possible, look for opportunities to ask users to record a short video testimonial where they share their stories using your tool.
Kahoot!, for example, has detailed testimonials from customers. They are a major trust signal for both new and existing customers, which proves the effectiveness of the platform.
Starting a startup in EdTech is a lot of work. You need developers, designers, tech bloggers, social media specialists, testers, sales professionals, content writers - probably many of them will be independent professionals with sufficient freelance skills.
Not to mention the culture that you want to build and nurture from day one enforcing the right atmosphere to spark inspiration and success.
Your investors will also ask if you have enough talent to achieve the goals in your business plan. They need to be sure that your team is ready and able to deliver the best EdTech product possible. Here's our take on the first 10 ideal hires for your startup.
That’s why do your best and invest time to recruit a team with the expertise you need. Be ready to encounter some shortages of people with experience in EdTech - the industry is quickly emerging, so talented individuals are grabbed fast by new startups.
Remember a talented team is also a diverse team. Especially when it comes to education, diversity is key to delivering a modern product that fits the future of our society. This is also something investors will think of when assessing your competencies to secure scalability and the return on their investment they seek.
So, here’s how to start a startup company in EdTech.
Many EdTech companies have brought major changes to the education industry despite being in the business for less than ten years. The face of education is changing rapidly, and your company might achieve success relatively quicker than in other industries.
Hope these five tips helped you to understand what goes into starting an EdTech startup. Let them help you do your homework properly and arrive at a plan that’ll wow potential investors.
This article was written by Marques Coleman. Marques is a content executive at https://subjecto.com/. He has been working as an educational writer and research for over a decade, having written numerous higher education reports and studies. Marques’s mission is to advance the technological progress in the education industry and attract more innovation.
Thanks to Marques for his contribution to the Hub.