Tim, sorry have only just joined so a little late to the party. Would be interested to know how you've progressed?
I'm Co-Founder at ParentPaperwork.com, Melbourne-based, few hundred schools in 8 countries.
Perhaps I can make a few observations and see if they gel with yours:
We only have a couple of dozen schools in the USA and we've sourced all remotely. But the snags are many - for example we signed a school district, sent them an invoice and all was well, until the finance director ruled that they could not buy our product because the law says they have to spend public money on US companies. As it was a reasonably sized deal we set up a US company, and via a family member living there, a bank account. And they paid. With a cheque mailed to our family member, who then banked it for us. Painful.
I've had conversations with a couple of the big EdTech firms in the US around partnerships etc.
If you only have a few hundred schools you are a complete minnow to the big guys, and this is compounded by the fact you are on the other side of the world. The problem is the complete disparity in scale - for them you are just one more little fly buzzing around. For you they have access to a massive market through their existing customer base. I've rarely seen partnerships with these foundations be successful. If you do wind up with a distributor arrangement you need to spend a significant amount of time on the ground with them - I’ve had to do that with our UK partner. You need to be prepared to invest significantly in the relationship.
I’ve tried ‘consultants’ in both US and UK markets who charge you a fortune for ‘introductions’, they promise all manner of amazing things, and almost nothing ever eventuates.
I've also worked for SAAS firms in San Francisco for several years including a very well funded Australian company - not EdTech. Much learning - still remember a sales guy explaining to me that the US is not one country, it’s 50, and every one of them is different.
There is a bit of a tendency for Oz tech firms (whether EdTech or otherwise) to forget that the US is only one potential market. Our second largest market is the UK. We’re starting to get good traction in NZ. We just sold to our first Singapore school. The latter 2 markets are easily and cheaply accessible, and have plenty of opportunity.
We have a strong relationship with our UK partner, we did an integration of our platform into theirs, and we’re starting to see the results, although it’s taken a year to get there - and several UK trips. We speak regularly, my marketing/sales guys constantly give them ideas and feedback etc.
One fair success story is a Perth EdTech firm who recruited someone from one of their customer schools in Canada, who crossed over to their company to sell their product in Canada and northern US states and that seems to have worked quite well.
There’s also a Sydney EdTech firm who’s done well in Oz, just launched in the UK - but they basically did it all themselves, one of the two founders has spent weeks on the ground in London.
If any of the above is useful then great. If you are Melbourne-based would welcome a coffee.