Unemployment is as much a product of super-flawed academic systems, as it is of uninformed parenting. And automation has begun adding to it, with numbers that people don’t want to imagine.

By late 2020, students and professionals are running out of ways to be prepared for what’s coming, and rapidly evolving tech is not making it easy either. Also, academic systems are lagging behind on equipping the youth with functional skills to survive in the world of fast-developing ‘artificial intelligence’ .

But the new age EdTech - education technology - startups are trying to change this grim scenario.

EdTech startups in 2020 and beyond won't look just for profit and mindless scaling. But something more. Practical education and skills. And communities that support the members to build sustainable careers.

Naturally, people need such startups now more than ever, as technology and automation eat away at jobs. Everyone needs to be able to upgrade their careers and themselves.

One such EdTech startup, called CareerKarma, is making huge leaps in educating individuals online with real skills to be employable and build thriving careers. And its founder Ruben Harris had joined HelloMeets for a meetup on how you can grow your Edtech startup in 2020 & beyond.

If you're planning to start an Edtech startup [like a learning app for kids, or a language app for blue-collar employees] yourself, we recommend you try some of the below points.  


This blog hopes to retain the AMA ("ask me anything') format of Ruben's meetup.  

HelloMeets: Is it too late to start your own EdTech startup? How to deal with an already contested space?

Ruben: Finding your niche is the key here.

  • Think about major trends that people in different industries are moving towards, where very particular skills are going to be needed. For example, DevOps, or Serverless computing.
  • Be very specific when you are deciding who to target. Especially the demographics, and understand why they should come to you again and again to fulfill their needs.


HelloMeets: How & why should EdTech startups build an audience first before launching a product?

Ruben: You should identify a major problem  of your primary target users. And find out how frequently do they have that problem - and how you are going to solve that problem.

Talk to people that have problems that you think your EdTech startup platform is solving.

I did hundreds of interviews to find problems that people faced during career navigation. I hyper-focused on matching the people with the right education providers before getting the job. And then we came up with skill-based bootcamps for aspirants to learn skills that make them more viable candidates.

We built trust in people by helping them decide future steps to take in their careers. And that trust is real, transparent.

HelloMeets: How can one re-apply for YCombinator, when they get rejected once for funding?

Ruben: Here's a thing you all should keep in mind while pitching to YC.Pitch what you're going to do today, and how. Don't focus too much on the future, or like a 10 year plan.

You're nothing until you've launched. Do something before pitching. After you've found out the problem you want to solve and you've got your solution for that - use a no-code tool to flesh it out into reality (one of the ways to go about creating a Proof of Concept).

Also work on getting better at story telling and communication. Here' what you can try too:

  • I studied a lot of pastors. Because at the end of their sermons they often have present a call to action. (Like, are you ready to change today?)
  • Listen to radio, and study talk show hosts.
  • Watch a lot of movies. And understand story structures, building tension and then giving a cathartic resolution to that tension.


HelloMeets: How to stay ahead of the curve, when it comes to awareness of the market and the EdTech space?

Ruben: Here's what I did that you can try to.

  • Curate a twitter list of stakeholders you want to cater to and the subjects relevant to you and your startup.
  • Sign up to a newsletters that give you insights about your space
  • Read a lot of blogs by founders and CTOs, you can find a lot of trends there. For example, people are talking a lot about Neuralink and Brain-Machine interface technology.


HelloMeets: When interviewing customers, how can one turn insights into actionables steps?

Ruben:

  • Talk to users a lot [I do this for 2 hours a day, every week].
  • Ask them what's their no.1 struggle. And then ask yourself does your product solve it? And does your product need to change for that and how much? Would one feature solve it?


HelloMeets: How to build a robust community and why is it important?

Ruben:

  • Make high quality content - It should capture emotion, spirit, mindset, social justice, and more. And that kind of content people should be able to create and consume in your community, it matters lot. It automatically builds trust when people exchange such content and experiences in an environment that you provide.
  • People and their stories matter a lot. Give people a space to be themselves and help them build confidence to remove their insecurities.


HelloMeets: 4 things led to the building of community and growth at CareerKarma
Ruben: SEO, COMMUNITY, FREE TOOLS AND SERVICES

HelloMeets: Any tips on Go-to-market strategy for EdTech startups?

Ruben:

  • Try to avoid paid marketing at the beginning
  • Start a content [newsletters, podcasts, etc] vertical that attracts people to your brand
  • Live v/s recorded session - experiment a lot for your niche that you want to cater to. [Live, collaborative approach has better mileage, because it a community interacting in a space where they can ask questions in real-time and find more ideas.
  • Don't go grow or scale up too soon. Stay focused and see how you want to grow. In which direction.
  • Also try smaller samples to base your solution on. It should be easy to consume. The problem, to which you have a solution, should be happening often to give you revenue. Or it should pay you enough to have one-time fees model. Find a problem that is recurring, and has a high frequency of users coming back to your solution.


HelloMeets: Tips on while selecting a market?

Ruben:

  • Select a space where you can build relationships. But be laser-focused on selecting your target. Eg: Students in a city - Dallas - in Texas.
  • Focus on channels you select while targeting. Identify where they hang out. Ask some of these to find such answers - Non-profit groups that focus on students, High-school groups, Slack groups, LinkedIn.


HelloMeets: If an EdTech startup wants to run bootcamps, any tips to make it a success?

Ruben:

  • Focus in admissions. If you want to reach a lot of people in your admissions process, keep it free and easy.
  • Admissions don't need to focus on exam scores or GPA. Attract students with enabling and accepting them with qualities beyond scores.
  • The real power is in starting and finishing something.


HelloMeets: What does the future of education look like?

Ruben:

  • Mix-aged classrooms
  • 12:1 students to teacher rations
  • Curriculum that'll have play and experimentation to apply knowledge
  • Classes which instill accountability for future in students
  • Immersive environments to learn in
  • "Every child can" philosophy - to create access that wasn't there before. That'll enable free-agency, because they can learn regardless of in-born talent.



HelloMeets gives a massive shoutout and thanks to Ruben Harris for a wonderful meetup. You can follow him on Twitter for more insights! Also check out HelloMeets if you’d like to be a part of such meetups and learn from live interactions!