Schools · Education

How would you go about getting schools on your platform?

Jossy Onwude Founder at Medifund

May 25th, 2015

So I have a platform that involves having schools around the globe to use it. It's free and of benefit to the schools. Am wondering, if you were to be the owner, what would you do to get schools to use the platform especially those in the states and Europe since am based in the Philippines.

Regards

Karl Schulmeisters CTO ClearRoadmap

May 26th, 2015

If its free to schools - how do you make money?  if it is Ad supported, many school districts in the USA will not allow its use.

Selling in the USA to schools is expensive:  USA has over 13,500 independent school districts.  Each has independent budgetary and curriculum authority..  It is true that some states are more centralized than others (for example Washington State is more centralized than Massachussets)   but you basically are going to have to convince the Superintendents and IT departments of each district individually.

France seems to be more centralized - but that has the effect that you have a very expensive and heavy lift to get yourself approved.  And until you are approved you cannot get into any school (whereas in the  USA you can find a small SD that is cash strapped and pitch them - and use that as a stepping stone).

Its a tough business to be in in the USA because schools are underfunded.

Aswan Morgan Mobile Entrepreneur; eCommerce Personalization, Optimization & Conversion Expert

May 25th, 2015

I've sold SaaS licenses to universities before and in my experience, they're not too agile. Sales cycles can be long, they're slow to adopt and are often budget-constrained. To start, I would recommend targeting several universities that fit the customer profile for the product/service you're offering--schools/universities that have real pain. Understand their budgets and buy schedules (i.e. when decisions are made and who makes those decisions), and engage them early. Perhaps start with a cluster in the same region to make things easier.

Since you're overseas, I would strongly recommend pulling in a sales partner on US soil--someone with a track record of closing deals in the academic community. Frankly. "sales" might be a misnomer because at this stage, you'll need to mitigate risk for these often risk averse institutions by offering free trials or POCs. Get 1 or 2 success stories and use those orgs for product feedback and to act as references. Academia is a close-knit community; word-of-mouth is powerful.

Anonymous

May 26th, 2015

I work in K12 public education in the states. Free or not, there is a LOT of competition for platforms that supposedly solve a problem for schools. In truth, most rarely do. Why? Because the "problem" being solved isn't always seen as a problem; the districts may already have a solution that is working and is low-cost or free, therefore the districts will not see a need to "fix what isn't broken"; as mentioned above - if ad-supported, you will not find many (if any) schools in states signing on because ads are a VERY tricky prospect in public schools on websites.

If your sales are based on ancillary sales, the issue you have there is sheer interest. For example, if your site sells items based on student artwork (a la artsonia.com), you are relying on friends, family and the occasional stranger to click through and buy the items. That's a tough model to break into unless there is an incentive to the schools and/or students.

You have yet to state what your platform is or what it supposedly solves. That alone will give pause, though I understand not wanting to show all your cards if things are in the early stages.

Anonymous

May 26th, 2015

I have given this a little more thought. If you were to obtain a database of all the districts and their buildings in the US, you could pre-populate your platform. That way, when teachers, admins, students (or whatever your target audience is) wanted to sign up, they can easily choose their district and building, as applicable.

By making it easy to get into, you open the door for both top-down and bottom-up engagement. Admins that get gung-ho about it can push it out to their staff. Teachers who jump on before the rest of the district can do so without being hindered by lagging administration. It's a win-win for you and for the users involved, regardless of their district hierarchy. 

Robert Tolmach Entrepreneur and Social Entrepreneur

May 27th, 2015

A database of K-12 schools is available from NCES. It tends to be about a year out of date, so it will have about 99% coverage.  I have not looked to see if they also have colleges.

Jossy Onwude Founder at Medifund

May 26th, 2015

Thanks for the reply. Actually our service is free for the schools and I think it's something they will like to avail since they currently use crude methods to solve the said problem. And yeah would try to look for someone overseas that can help with getting them on board but that's something have been wondering how to do too.

Regards 

Jossy Onwude Founder at Medifund

May 26th, 2015

@Karl, Thanks for your reply. Yes its free and not ad supported. we make money from transactions on our platform. But i think I need to explain more about the platform so that you get an idea what am talking about. Would do so in Davids reply.

@David, Thanks for your reply. I think I should tell you more so that you understand what am trying to do here. Though I wont talk more about our innovative feature but more on the general. So we are basically solving a pain point for students. I personally experienced it when I was trying to get into a school for my MD program. So our platform solves a very huge pain point for students but to do so, we also need to have on the platform a means for them to connect with schools, apply to schools(letter or video) and meet people in the said school. So now am trying to get enough schools into our platform to begin with.
And yeah, A database would be useful. How and where can i get one?

Regards

Karl Schulmeisters CTO ClearRoadmap

May 27th, 2015

There already is an online mechanism for applying to schools.  https://www.commonapp.org/Login

so you are somewhat going up against an entrenched mature solution.  As for meeting people in said school - why would a school be interested in giving up a mediating role in that?

Jossy Onwude Founder at Medifund

May 27th, 2015

@karl I see, but the application is just one part of it. Through the platform, schools can be discovered by students across the globe etc. Then I don't think the schools are giving up anything as its normal this days for schools to promote themselves by  alumni or current students to sell the school to the public. The platform only using that as an additional feature. The thing is, we want to solve a paint point for students and we have a cool feature for that problem, but we have to also get schools on the platform and these schools have everything to gain as they currently pay for ads and pay consultants to get them students especially international students while  on our platform, they can easily get students wanting them.

Karl Schulmeisters CTO ClearRoadmap

May 27th, 2015

CollegeBoards.com  does the school discovery in the USA.

so that's two apps that are already established in the marketplace that you have to displace.  And that means you not only have to offer more value to the students, but to the  schools as well.

So you have a steep climb.