EdTech - 3 Jobs to be Done

Edtech is an interesting and inspiring space, but very difficult to crack. I say that being familiar with and passionate about the space. I started my career as a teacher, at a new school for entrepreneurs, where our goal was to unbundle a 4 year CS + Business degree into a very practical 1-year entrepreneurship course. Then, a few years down the line, I created a learning app to help people remember what they learn, which led to me joining Quizlet, one of the most popular education apps used by 50M+ students every month and a $1B company, at an early stage.  

Founders who want to start an education business are often good students who went to good universities, are really passionate about learning, and want to make education more interesting, exciting, and less broken. That is a wonderful ideal and attitude but often doesn't lead to successful business outcomes. Because for the majority of people, education is much more utilitarian. Education is a means to an end. It is a necessary chore to get a job or a degree.

"Jobs to be done" is a great framework for making sure your ideas are customer-focused and practical. Customers hire your product or service to do a job for them, and they have job requirements and hiring criteria. There are 3 main jobs to be done in EdTech:

1) Help me pass my test as quickly as possible (Test and Homework Prep)

All students have to take tests, and tests are a pain. Products and services that help students pass tests, with the least effort possible, are in high demand. 

Kaplan and Princeton Review are other examples that target standardized tests. In India, Byjus helps people prep for IIT entrance and other major school exams. 

Quizlet falls in this category. Quizlet helps students prepare for "local tests" - the weekly ones or mid-terms, or finals. Chegg is the ~$10B behemoth that offers on-demand tutors and textbook solutions. 

2) Help me switch careers to a higher-paying job (Reskill)

Software is eating the world. Software-related jobs are high-paying and growing, whereas other sectors aren't faring too well. There are also murmurs of a similar wave of "Climate change" jobs over the next decade. There's a demand for programs that can retrain and place people in a new job.  

Lambda is the most popular example of a reskilling boot camp. They train people for programming jobs and they have an innovative "income-share agreement" that makes it viable financially for candidates and aligns incentives for boot camps. General Assembly and FlockJay (for sales) are other examples. 

3) Help me do my job better and get a promotion (Upskill)

"Employee training" has been a thing within companies and HR for a long while. There is usually a ton of corporate training budget, which is poorly used or unused. This is a fragmented market with several corporate and leadership training companies. Often times they don't really lead to any measurable outcomes and are too general, not ongoing, or integrated into actual career ladders.  

Reforge is a great example of high-quality and cohort-based upskilling courses for Product Managers and Marketers. They started with Growth and have expanded to several PM and marketing programs. OnDeck is similar and seems to be doing a mix of upskilling and reskilling programs. 

Udemy, Udacity, and Coursera fill some of this with online video classes, which typically lack engagement and outcome (90+% of students drop out). Several individuals creating online and cohort-based classes, which are much more engaging and higher cost/value, for specific verticals - Lenny's PM class, Ali's Youtube class, David Perrel's Writing class, etc. 


For completeness, here are some other categories of Edtech businesses: 

  • Technology to schools: Google classrooms, Remind, ClassDojo, etc. 
  • Textbooks to schools: Cengage, Pearson, Mcgraw-Hill, Newsela, Teachers pay Teachers  
  • Kids education: ABC Mouse, Chuchu TV, PinkFong etc. This is a studio model. 
  • Edutainment: Masterclass, Discovery channel
  • Replacing schools or colleges: It's hard to replace credentialing and social aspects of college. Coursera, University of Phoenix, Outlier are examples. AltSchool tried but eventually failed.
  • Language learning: DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone.