How to launch your edtech startup in a low-tech industry

Education doesn’t finish after school. With further qualifications required to move up in fields as diverse as healthcare, beauty therapy and construction, there’s a huge opportunity for edtech to help employers manage training. But how do you introduce your product to industries with plenty of trainees, but low tech adoption?

Six months ago, my team and I launched social care training software Florence Academy. Here’s my advice for getting an edtech startup off the ground, even in a sector where paper print-outs rule...

  1. Understand why edtech isn’t already used

You probably won’t be first to launch edtech to your chosen market.

Figure out why it hasn’t taken off by talking to potential customers, understanding their current set-up and hearing their concerns. Demo your product to a range of people in different roles and organisations - you'll start to find trends in the feedback you can learn from, and build better than what’s come before.

Speaking to social care people, it became clear trust was a major reason for the slow pick-up.

In theory, edtech should be a fit in this industry - employees must pass a range of theoretical and practical courses before being able to deliver care. Software that lets courses be completed online from any device, and automatically tracks training for managers, can provide major efficiencies for any organisation.

However, many care services told us they only did training in person, and manually kept records in Excel or on paper. They assumed using software would be time-consuming, daunting, and may lead to a dip in employee knowledge (which can have serious ramifications in care).   

Our challenge was clear: convince employers to try out the time-saving benefits of our platform, while keeping confidence in the quality of our training.

Learning #1: Gain a deep understanding of why your market hasn’t already jumped at edtech. See your customer’s problems from their point of view - and think about what you’d need to do to truly solve them.

  1. Solve genuine problems

After understanding your market’s needs, and building a product to fit, it’s time to find your first users. Your offer doesn’t need to be perfect, but it must fix an issue people care about.

In social care, we discovered giving a free trial of a useful course (that wasn’t available elsewhere) could persuade people to give us a go.

One care home manager told us they’d never need Florence Academy, as they did all their training in person. We asked if they’d still like to try our suite of COVID-19 staff courses for free - and they agreed. Now, they’re assigning staff to other courses and using reporting features they’ve found on their own.

Even in a relatively low-tech industry, you can persuade people to try you if the benefit is clear and the risk low.

This works best when your product is easy to use. Often, this means doing only a few key things simply, and well. In demos for Academy, we quickly learned “less is more” as people fed back how user-friendly it was, compared to other software they struggled with.

Learning #2: Test different offers to find what persuades target customers to try you. This will often take multiple demos, conversations and throw-at-the wall-ideas to tap into what works.

  1. Get feedback and act on it

After gaining your all-important first users, it’s time to kick-start a cycle of gathering feedback.

This helps you figure out what to improve, add to or take away from your product, and also helps you sell-in better in future. It’s a gold-dust opportunity to build something that truly fits the market’s needs (rather than what you may think it needs).

We find one question works better than all others at guiding our next focus. Instead of asking our free trial users “What do you like or dislike about Florence Academy?” we ask: “What’s stopping you from buying Academy today?”

The feedback we get gives us concrete and specific examples of what we’re lacking - and should build. It’s how we decided we should launch Care Certificate courses (mandatory for many social care workers, so a major deciding factor for customers) as a roadmap priority, which had an immediate impact on conversion.

Asking this, combined with in-platform surveys and using tools like Hotjar to analyse behaviour, helps us stay on top of improvements to prioritise.

Learning #3: Continuously gather quantitative and qualitative feedback, and use it to shape your roadmap. This helps you build a product that becomes part of your previously low-tech user’s life seamlessly.

The takeaway

My ultimate learning from these last six months? Convincing a low-tech industry to use edtech can feel like a huge task, but it doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel.

If your product works well, solves a genuine problem, and you frame the benefits in the right way, people will try it. And with this, you take your next significant step towards startup success.