At FETC, Vendors Told to Study State and Local Policy to Unlock K-12 Market

Contributed by EdWeek Market Brief


State and local education policies, funding, and school and district culture need to align for ed-tech products to find a successful foothold in the K-12 world, according to a panel of investors and consultants here at the 39th annual Future of Education Technology Conference.

But often, CEOs are pumping resources into products that may not resonate in the education market, or they fail to approach schools and districts in way that translates to sales.

The panel, “Ed-Tech Trends to Note: Understanding the Market to Inform Decisions” featured advisers and investors who put their money behind ed-tech companies they think will hit the sweet spot in the market. The discussion took place Tuesday at FETC, which draws nearly 10,000 teachers, administrators and IT leaders, along with hundreds of vendors featuring cutting-edge ed-tech products.

But those vendors often don’t understand the needs of specific K-12 markets, schools and buyers. For example, a company may have a product that is successful in one state, but when they bring it elsewhere, company officials don’t do their homework by researching how local policies may influencesaid Adam Giery, the managing partner of Strategos Group, a consulting firm specializing in education and technology.

While companies often target big states with many districts like Texas and Florida, for example, it’s better to focus on states where your product meshes with policy, Giery said.

Ed-tech companies may make the mistake of trying appeal directly to teachers without thinking about pleasing district central office officials who are often the buyers, said Kevin Custer, the founding principal of Arc Capital Development, which invests in education companies. “If you’re going to get into the school, you have to be able to satisfy the administrator,” he said.

In addition, entrepreneurs too often approach districts by telling them what they need instead of listening and discovering educators’ pain points. “They discount away where the district is really coming from and what they have going on,” Giery said.  Read more.