Last week I told you that the job you wanted didn’t exist, that your ideas are terrible and you will fail. Now that we’ve dismissed your fantasies about how amazing life will be when the world recognizes the genius of your innovative technology product and the press / customers universally grant you laurels while handing over mountains of cash; let’s get you started.
One of the most important things you are going to need is money and advice from people who have done this before. Even if you are doing a “lean startup“, you will find that eventually getting someone else to cover some of the startup costs is useful. Be careful though, the people with the money will be happy to get you to build your business into a thriving enterprise and leave you with only crumbs at the end. I’ve made you a list broken out into three categories of organizations to pitch your idea to. I don’t endorse any of these groups and I caution you to do your own research before doing business with them.
Accelerators / Incubators
Accelerators / Incubators provide training and sometimes money to help you take the earliest steps in building your business. Usually they can offer some mix of office space, small grants (a few thousand dollars), training and access to advisors. The following are ones that I’ve seen in the news recently that seem especially focused on EdTech. There are thousands of others out there.
- Kapplan EdTech Accelerator — The Kaplan EdTech Accelerator is a three month intensive, deep immersion program for ten education startups
- Pearson Catalyst — The Pearson Catalyst incubator program aims to match startups with Pearson brands to deliver pilot programmes and offer access to Pearson resources and product experts, including the opportunity to work closely with a Pearson brand over the course of the program.
- Imagine K-12 — Imagine K12 is a 3.5 month program for founders and hackers intent on changing the world.
- 4.0 Schools — 4.0 is a design lab for curious people committed to unprecedented innovation in education.
- Startl — Provides small grants to help seed promising ed tech ventures.
- Center for Education Technology (Israel) Provides support to Israeli Ed Tech entrepreneurs.
- Startup Weekend Education — Provides workshops over weekends where innovative people like you can build out your ideas and get your business off the ground.
- Learn LaunchX — Boston MA based program for Ed Tech with a summer program offering funding, office space and advice.
- Socratic Labs — NYC based edtech incubator.
- Y Combinator — Not specifically edtech focused, but one of the more talked about startups.
Angel Investors, MicroFunds and Venture Funds
These are the more traditional sources of funding. These are usually comprised of “accredited investors” These are usually rich people or groups of rich people with money and resources to investigate your company and business plan before they invest. These groups tend to overlap and the terms usually apply to the scale of investment made. Angel Investors are usually individuals who provide seed investments (usually less than $1 million) to startups. MicroFunds are just groups of Angel investors who get together to spread these small investments around to a number of companies. Venture Funds are larger pools of money that focus on making multi-million dollar investments.
Some useful sites for finding these investors:
- Angel List — This is sort of like an dating site for startup funding.
- Crunchbase — a general registry of tech companies, but also useful for finding out which funds are backing particular ventures.
- VentureBeat — provides news and information about startups and funding.
The Internet has enabled a new kind of funding model. Crowd funding lets you take your concept to social media and then market it to potential customers and others who like your technology idea. The people you engage give small amounts of money towards your seed funding goal. Typically potential customers will get a discount or moved to the front of the line when the product becomes available.
Two of the more popular sites for Crowd funding are:
Your Friends and Family
You should be careful here. Make sure they understand that your intent is to lose their money in an epic failure. They are paying for a very expensive wedding that will end in a divorce. Still the journey will be character building for you and there is a remote chance, like a lottery ticket that they will make some money out of it. I am not going to list your friends and family here, because you have Facebook for that.
- MacMillian New Ventures — Focused on product discovery and partnerships.
- SIAA Innovation Incubator — not a direct funding source, but the Software & Information Industry Association has a program that will promote your startup.
- LinkedIn EdTech Startup Group
- LinkedIn Education Industry Investment Forum
- EDUCAUSE Startup Alley — Has provided a venue at EDUCAUSE to provide floor space where you can pitch your concept more broadly
- Blackboard Building Blocks Program This program can help you build awareness of your product to Blackboard customers.