This post is a response to Andrew T. Grauer's piece entitled Year of the Student, via EdTechDigest.
When I talk about movements in education technology in the past two years, I like to bring to light the fact that edtech startups have, in many cases, focused keenly on the student. There are endless resources for students to study, learn new skills, connect with tutors, etc. Many of these resources did not exist just a few years ago - it has truly been a landslide of innovation. Or, as many people call it:
There is no question that these new resources have been revolutionary. So much so, in fact, that people are beginning to believe that traditional education paths are a waste of money. Much to my parents chagrin, I highly doubt I'll be sending my kids to university - by the time that rolls around, I'm sure there will be a multitude of online courses, tools, and other resources for them to use in place of traditional brick-and-mortar schooling.
Okay, I'm getting off-track, but my point is this: education technology has already revolutionized the student experience.
I believe a more unique change lies ahead in 2014. And so, I hereby dub 2014, the Year of the Edu-Preneur.
Question #1: What, on earth, is an "edu-preneur"?
Great question. An edu-preneur is someone who runs, or aspires to run, an education business. Maybe it's a math tutoring company, or a language academy, or a test prep business. Maybe it's a brick-and-mortar center, or an in-home service, or an online provider.
Education businesses come in many shapes and sizes. They all have a few things in common, however:
1) They aim to provide quality education for their students
2) They aim to make money
3) They aim to grow their client base
Actually starting an education business is an interesting challenge. I chatted with an entrepreneur recently who just went through this process - he recruited instructors, paid a developer to build a website, leased a small building, and is now on to sales and marketing to students.
I applaud him for his hard work making this happen - he recognized a need in the market, and built a solution for it. He capitalized on his entrepreneurial instincts and built an education business.
I'd argue many people have entrepreneurial instincts, or recognize market needs they could address. And many people have valuable knowledge and expertise that others would pay to acquire. Many of these people also have friends who have expertise that is complementary to their own.
Despite this formula, not a lot of people start businesses to make money from their expertise. Education and entrepreneurship are not as closely linked as they could be. Why is that?
The barriers to entry are too high.
Developing a traditional education business is hard. Not everyone wants to go through building their own website, leasing a building or traveling to meet students in-person. As a result, many potential education businesses go un-founded.
Education is actually a lot like retail...
Before the Internet existed, starting a retail business faced the exact same barriers to entry I just described. You needed to lease a retail location, hire staff, and drive foot traffic to your store.
Then came the e-commerce revolution, led by companies like Shopify. These platforms have enabled businesses of all kinds to start-up from nothing. They have countless success stories of people with two things: products to sell and entrepreneurial instincts.
These key ingredients, coupled with Shopify's e-commerce software, have allowed businesses to spring up out of nowhere - click here for an awesome example.
At eProf, we are beyond excited about the work we're doing in this genre we call edu-commerce: the fusion of education and e-commerce.
Barriers, be gone!
In 2014, you can start your own education business with almost no overhead cost and a small time investment. Just as Shopify has enabled turnkey e-commerce, eProf aspires to enable turnkey edu-commerce. For example, I'm in the midst of starting an online academy focused around coding literacy and business learning. I'm doing it for a few reasons...
1) To showcase the power of the eProf platform
2) To help people I know learn important skills
3) To run a business remotely with a few of my close friends (one lives in Boulder, the other in DC, while I'm in Toronto)
4) To earn additional income
What do I need to make this happen? Educators, curriculum, and the pillars of eProf...
I will be chronicling my edu-preneurial journey on the eProf blog over the coming months. I really look forward to sharing the challenges and successes we face, and I hope this post inspires you to think about starting your own edu-preneurial venture!
Questions, ideas, or concerns? Please leave comments below.