Mitch Kapor gave a great keynote at the closing day of Startup Weekend EDU in Seattle this evening with a key theme being that we need to create a ‘culture of learning,’ and not just tools to really ‘fix’ the challenges in education. He shared some insights into his experience investing in edtech startups, and how at first he never invested in companies selling to districts/schools but has changed his stance on that a bit. He started off highlighting the work he and his wife, Freada, have been doing with The Summer Science Program, an intense six-week STEM-focused summer program for intellectually talented high school students from low income (SES) communities.
I especially appreciated his thoughts on social vs. tech entrepreneurs and how they can learn from each other’s perspective to maximize results. The sweet spot is where you build awesome (and useful) products with a sustainable business model.
His closing thoughts on startups today was most applicable to a Startup Weekend-type event — Often entrepreneurs “confuse how far you can get in your first day of travel with how long it will take to get to the top of the mountain.” This captures the current environment where it’s so easy to get started, but it’s still very difficult to get past the early adopters, especially when hoping to sell to schools and districts, which have long and complicated sales timelines. Overall his message was positive and encouraged all edupreneurs to keep fighting the good fight, but just make sure you can make money!