How do we know when it’s working?

We seem to hear the most about ed tech startups early on- when they launch their flagship product or get some funding. But we rarely hear about them quietly sinking into oblivion. That’s why “2010-2011 Ed-Tech Startups: Where Are They Now” from Audrey Watters at Hack Education caught my eye. It brings up an important discussion that’s often easy to avoid: some ed tech companies don’t last very long and the ones that do often struggle.

I’ve seen small companies testing ways to stay in the black. I’ve heard leadership use phrases like “making money in our sleep” (they didn’t) and “we don’t care how many customers are actually using the product” (they didn’t). I’ve seen one company make payroll only through the benevolence of a wealthy family member. Fortunately, these companies have survived but many aren’t so lucky.

How can we do better? How can an ed tech startup avoid limping along with a single developer? How can they scale while maintaining a long-term commitment to their customers, end users or even their own vision? How do you decide what business advice to take in such a complex industry?

I don’t think there are clear answers – and there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution – but ed tech organizations of all sizes can learn a lot from recaps like this, and I wish there were more of them.

This post was first published at workingexamples.org.