Elaborating a business model for The Discovery Challenge – an education startup that wants to help educators facilitate a personalized discovery journey for teenage students. By applying lean startup as well as motivational psychology and learning pedagogy.

The startup idea: A personalized education for young people to help them find their way

The idea of The Discovery Challenge was presented by Anthony at the Startup Weekend EDU Amsterdam 2016. He wanted to offer a personalized education to young people to motivate them, meet their learning style and help them discover their strengths and what they want to do with their life.

The idea was born from the experience that the school system offers a standardized curriculum and standardized teaching methods that the students have to adapt to. Educators lack the background and curriculum to teach basic entrepreneurial and discovery skills. As a result, young people discover too late what their strengths are and what career they want to pursue.

The teamwork: Elaborating a business model and a curriculum for a 1-year personalized education

Anthony was supported by me. Together, we elaborated a value proposition and a business model for a 1-year education program for schools with curriculum and teaching materials as well as an accompanying website.

We tested the need by interviewing young people in and out of school. To offer teenage students the benefits of the personalized discovery challenge we would have to meet the needs of educators who facilitate that. Based on that we developed the value proposition of an education program that allows educators to facilitate an entrepreneurial and discovery journey of teenage students. The students pursue several team challenge around themes of interest, and in doing so develop basic entrepreneurial skills and discover their strengths. Then we have validated the value proposition with educators and parents who are entrepreneurs.

Next, we created a student assessment based on motivational psychology and learning pedagogy. A mock-up of the website shows how the assessment of student personality and interests might be used for a personalized and motivating learning experience. To make the concept of personalized education feasible and viable, we embedded personalized and themed elements into a standardized education curriculum.

We developed a multi-sided business model that demonstrates the value proposition for the students as users, the educators – teachers and schools – as repeat clients, plus sponsors willing to pay for it.

Nicole’s contribution: How to conceptualize and realize an education program and platform

In this team of two with backgrounds in business consulting and professional education, I collaborated on all aspects of the overall concept, the value proposition and business model, contributing my experience in conceptualizing and realizing an education program and platform.

I pointed out when I felt that something should be considered. For example, it is important to do customer development, but this does not mean to shift your strategy and product roadmap on every new customer insight. The purpose of customer development is to inform your vision, but it is your vision that guides the product development. I think the founder’s vision is one of the most powerful forces to drive a new business. The founder-business-fit is more important than the product-market-fit.

Personalized education will be the next big thing. Most education programs still follow a standard curriculum. Many eLearning platforms are coming up now, yet few attempt to offer a comprehensive education. The question is how to combine standardized and individual training modules in different formats to make sure certain learning objectives are achieved and to allow for an individual learner’s journey. And, of course, how to organize and calculate this in a feasible and viable way.

When I compare this idea for an education startup with others presented at the Startup Weekends Education in Amsterdam and Lyon, I notice a misconception about what it takes to build a successful startup with a reasonable effort. Most EdTech startups seem to miss the competitive advantage of building assets like a proprietary curriculum and content. To innovate education and make an impact, somebody with pedagogy and subject matter insights has to develop new learning offerings. Most impactful will be eLearning that facilitates successful completion of real-world activities.

The result: A verified business model and a concept for a personalized education program

Now, Anthony has a concept for his education startup with a verified product-market-fit, a concept for the education program with user experience, and a business model. Based on this, Anthony can build a minimum viable product, run tests with local schools and then grow and expand the concept, or pivot on clients and sponsors to ultimately help young people find their way.

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