To understand this post anywhere outside of the Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay Area requires some qualification. Despite the talk of a double-dip recession, despite the tenaciously high unemployment numbers, and despite Standard and Poor’s choice to move the U.S. credit rating one step closer to junk bond status, creativity and ingenuity are in full swing out here in the city by the bay.
EdTech Startups are becoming visible on the pixelated landscape dominated by biotech, semi conductors, and social networking sites. In recent months dozens of companies, large and small, have launched products (largely cloud-based software) that are getting significant venture capital funding. Nationally, more than $3B already this year has gone into taking these EdTech companies out of adolescence and into adulthood.
From my classroom teacher’s perspective, while there will surely be entrepreneurs and fund managers that make money, only some of this exchange will fruit in tools that will improve education. In this sea of invention and investment, there is at least one island where the desire to do well is matched in equal parts by the desire to do good. That place is Imaginek12.
Imaginek12 is a startup incubator. Starting a technology business requires technical skills, knowledge of a market niche, a business plan, and the skills to bring the plan before investors. Without incubators, entrepreneurs with an idea would have to rely upon personal savings, and the generosity of family and friends to bring an idea to the stage where a venture capital group might fund the development of the product to market. Such a team needs a business person to develop the plan, and seek investment. The incubator removes some of this individual risk, and makes obsolete the role of the business partner in exchange for a small equity stake in the startup – before it starts. An incubator group will provide modest startup capital – say $25k, the expertise and connections of the incubator founders, and the camaraderie of a hand picked collection of startups that support each other in creating a working beta product.
Imaginek12 is doing this exclusively for products targeted at solving K-12 education problems, and they are doing it well. I am sworn to secrecy about what I witnessed tonight at their educator demo day – at least until the incubator’s products release day on September 9th. However, I must squeal that there are ten new EdTEch products from this one incubator that offer more promise and innovation in Education Technology than anything I have seen in the last several years of my career.
Call me a groupie, but I see some magic happening at Imaginek12. Recently, I have asked for a couple of things (school choice tool and new standardized testing paradigm) from the greater EdTech community. I hope Imaginek12 is listening because it looks like they might be able to get them done.