Lessons an EdTech CEO can Learn From an Uber CEO

In Education and EdTech, You’ve Gotta Play By the Rules

rules and regulations marked on rubber stamp

There is a hot story going around the world of business right now about how the ride-sharing giant Uber didn’t follow Apple’s rules and Apple’s CEO personally threatened Uber’s CEO with eviction from the Apple store. This would have devastated to Uber’s business, and fortunately for them crisis was averted.

Rules of Engagement in EdTech

I see a lot of arrogance by leaders of emerging EdTech companies. Many times a founder or CEO will look down on educators as technical know-nothings who simply can’t grasp the complexities of what their EdTech app or service is doing. A by-product of this attitude can be disdain for all the complexities involved with the rules and regulations that are a major part of the education landscape and are, admittedly, often a pain to follow.

Follow the Rules, Like Them or Not

The bottom line is, if you’re not up to navigating the vast bureaucracy and endless regulations that are a part of the education business, you’re best not getting in the education business. It’s funded by taxpayers, therefore legislators have passed a lot legislation about how things should be run. Add lawyers to the mix to make sure a district or state department of education doesn’t get sued, and you end up with EdTech RFPs that are hundreds of pages long.

Unfortunately, you have to read the whole RFP before responding, because there could be one clause on page 134 that eliminates your company from being eligible for award of the contract. You have to think of everything in an RFP more like a law than a suggestion, including the deadline. I once saw an RFP get thrown out of consideration for a $70 million statewide contract because it was delivered 15 minutes past the deadline. They don’t mess around with that stuff.

You Won’t Win if You Don’t Play the Game rules apply

The bureaucracy of regulations in education can be frustrating. But you can’t change it, so you have to play the game by their rules. Maybe you offer a SaaS platform that only requires a browser, but you still have to answer the questions about disk space and memory requirements. Maybe FERPA doesn’t apply to your service, but you still have to answer the questions about being FERPA compliant. And when you do start getting contracts, not playing by the rules is a recipe for having your contract terminated early.

In the business world, you can sometimes play fast and loose with the way things are supposed to be done, like Uber allegedly did. It took a face-to-face meeting between the CEOs to avoid disaster. With government work like education, the fallout from breaking the rules aren’t nearly as forgiving.