Hoping to build on a rise in tech investment and a shift in cultural attitudes about how education is delivered in this country, Geoff Ralston, co-founder of Y-Combinator education investment clone ImagineK12 says that his incubator has received 40 new applications for startup ventures since they opened shop.
Read more to see the notes from the interview:
I had this fear we would get to the end of day one and we’d only have 10 applications. I don’t have this fear now. We are going to go out and talk to computer science departments around the country…. and we’re going to say it’s a place where you can make money and you can have an impact. That’s the pitch that we want to make to the future world changers out there. Hopefully the message will resonate.
So far, it seems to be working. Founder Ralston, and his two partners Alan Louie and Tim Brady have set up a website and a Facebook page for followers. They hope to fund the education startups that are set on disrupting the traditional model of education where knowledge is found only in school, and delivered only by the teacher.
Ralston, a former media executive at LaLa Media, says he wants to encourage “world changers” to do something to make a positive impact on the world and in the lives of children. He says that he, Louie (a former Googler) and Brady (formerly CEO at QuestBridge) believe that economic realities and changes in the way teachers and parents think about educating students makes this the right time to effect change.
“It used to be that you went to school because that is where the knowledge was,” says Ralston in a phone interview on Thursday. “Now, the very fabric of our children’s lives is permeated with this knowledge.”
ImagineK12 will rely on a series of innovation-minded teachers, students and computer department leaders, who will test out software and applications designed to make their jobs easier. The focus will be on helping companies break out and build a scalable enterprise that puts teachers in control of better ways to make education work, as well as addressing other public education needs.
Computers dominate our lives nowadays. We all carry cmoputers with us all the time. The most powerful companies are built around how computers interact with human beings. We never teach students about programming about computers till they are in college.
That’s just one of the areas that Ralson, Louie and Brady will spend their energies in incubating companies. They realize that there is no real single answer to how to make education function at a higher level, and still meet the high quality standards put in place by national legislation.
But there will be issues to confront, and they won’t be easy. For instance, how will Ralston and company tackle the reality that in public school education, funding for research and development is scarce and iterative thinking does not quite scale in a world of bureaucratic budget management and political red tape? He says:
The development of software is now frighteningly cheap.
For companies that can create new applications, whether they run on iPads or iPhones, they can be rapidly iterative and rapidly changed and rapidly adapted to whatever environment they are in. That’s all radically different now.
I don’t pretend to be an expert or overly naïve to how to break dollars from districts and put them into companies. I believe they [teachers and administrators] will be increasingly motivated to find tools that help them to improve their overall outcome and be more efficient. I think they are motivated and they are incentivized.
With that sea change registering around the country with education reform films being released to the tune of about three or four a year, this might be welcome news to teachers who are really great at what they do, but feel they need something to accentuate their mission critical priorities of making every child succeed.
We can actually do lots of things to make everything about education better, and we can make education more appropriate to the times in which we live.
We really have a hammer, and that hammer is tech, and it really feels like this is a nail that is ready to be banged hard, right now. The infrastructure is ready.
- An incredibly important piece on teaching and education (coopcatalyst.wordpress.com)
- Startup Veterans Launch Imagine K12, A “Y Combinator For Education Startups” (techcrunch.com)
- A New Incubator on the Block (inc.com)
- From Good Teachers to Good Teaching (crystalkeyministries.wordpress.com)
- Why we need to save great teachers (flowingdata.com)