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Giving up control of education | Felix Salmon

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A lot of ed-tech companies, quite naturally, are focused on selling their products to school boards, and on capturing some part of today’s substantial textbook budgets. I’m sure that some of them will find success that way. But I’m more interested in the technologies which bubble up from the students and the teachers and the parents, and which might then ultimately get ratified by the management, long after they have been broadly adopted in practice.


I think the traditional EdTech companies sell to school boards, districts and universities; however, the new model is direct to student or direct to teacher/professor.

The problem with the new model is that students and teachers/professors don't have a lot of money.

It's actually worse than that. The sales process is strangled by the bureaucracy at the school district level, and that's where the textbook lobby (seriously) has a stranglehold. Educational content has to be "approved" and the textbook industry has a lot of entrenched interests who want to make sure that there are only a small few companies that can create "approved" content.

Makes me wonder if we'll ever truly make progress.

The good news is that the teachers unions and school district people hate the textbook companies, they just don't understand how or aren't empowered enough to change it. Once edu startups start attacking the problem at the district level they'll have more success.

It's actually a lot like making enterprise sales to government customers. Once you understand the bureaucratic issues and have worked your way into the system, it can be done. It's just a counterintuitive process given then "bottoms up" world of the consumer internet today.

(I worked on an education startup for a while so I got to see some of this up close).

Still, I can think of at least a dozen San Francisco based EdTech startups that launched in the last 18 months that have 1m users; while they are no viddy or socialcam -- many of them are profitable.

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