New CEOs need the foresight to prepare to turn their product into a business.
There are many EdTech CEOs that manage to create a brilliant app or service to sell to the education market that fills a need through technology that looks like it could be quite valuable. These CEOs are driven, often have had success in other industries, and are eager to build a company of their own from the ground up.
The CEO uses some personal connections in the education industry, gets a few leads, makes a few sales, and his or her product that was developed in the garage is suddenly the cornerstone of a new EdTech company. The CEO hires a handful of people and is ready to grow and take on the world of education.
Look Where You’re Going
This is a scenario I see a lot in EdTech. There are a lot of companies led by a CEO with brilliant technical skills who created a wonderful solution to a problem plaguing the education industry. They get some sales in the industry, and start to grow. The problem is, as they grow as a business and adapt to the market, they fail to grow as a leader. They rely on their technical skills long after those skills are relevant for their leadership role.
The higher up you go in an organization the less important your technical skills become and the more important your interpersonal skills are.
Learn To Lead
The many EdTech CEOs who became CEO through their great ability to code often overlook this important aspect of doing business in the education marketplace. As they have developed their technical skills they often neglect to put supports in place that allow them to develop their interpersonal skills in parallel so they can become the best representative in the marketplace for their company. This can be a critical mistake.
Creating a SaaS app or service that fills a need in education is admirable. But once that app or service becomes a product and goes up for sale to superintendents and administrators, it’s a whole new ballgame. The result of this lack of planning is what I call the Accidental CEO.
Make Your Start-Up a Business
Many new EdTech CEOs focus so much on the developing the product and getting it released that when that release does happen they have to scramble to get in the marketing, public relations and even HR considerations for their company. This is a problem I see all too often and one that is preventable with some foresight and planning.
CEOs of new EdTech companies need to treat their businesses like a real business before they get to that stage. They often haven’t put processes in place to even communicate internally with people in their company. This results in incredibly bright CEOs that are stuck in R&D because that’s what they know best and they fall short in actually running the company.
Adding insult to injury, they don’t see the necessity to find a CEO with the communication skills it takes to best represent the company in the competitive marketplace. As a result, the company flounders in the real world of education sales, and never gets the growth it could have had with some foresight.