Barriers to Building for Kids: Part 6, Hope

If you’re reading this, you probably also read some of the earlier posts in the series that help explain why building products for kids is SO. DANG. HARD.

Ideally, this denouement would be like a sunbeam of 6,000 Rohirim, charging in sync to save the day.

It’s not. We haven’t ‘figured it out’ at Edify, yet. There aren’t easy ways to break through constricting, overlapping, mutually reinforcing negative feedback loops.

But still, there is hope.

Where? Where is the hope?

The hope is in technology.

Software’s unique scalability makes intensive research and development to produce differentiated learning products commercially attractive for the first time ever. The importance of high quality education for kids has never been more urgent, or more clear to parents, than in our present world of global competitiveness, wage stagnation, and technological automation³. At the same time, the increasingly ubiquitous distribution of digital devices ensures that there are far more buyers — with more money, more choices, more information, and more motive — for education today than ever before. Technology offers the feasible, even frictionless, means to reach these buyers worldwide, and offer them a ‘best-in-class’ learning experience.

Investing hundreds of millions in R&D to create breakthrough products that generate billions in long-term, high margin recurring revenue is a pretty great business model! Without democratized technology, and a drastic reduction in global poverty, this opportunity wouldn’t exist. But it does now. And while teachers, home environments, and educational systems will never be equivalent:

Well-built software can meaningfully equalize the quality of instructional material available to children worldwide, creating an unprecedented degree of equity in education.

That’s hope.

The hope is in the difficulty.

Opportunity and hardship are inseparable. Undoubtedly, education is treacherous. I’ve just spent five blog posts expounding that. Building for kids is so difficult that I want to scream at random adults daily: “Don’t you care about children?!? Where is your head at?! Please pay me for my product!”

And, the fact that it’s this difficult — that there are SO many barriers to entry and hurdles to success — is exactly what creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity for entrepreneurs to make a difference, and a power-law profit.

If it were easy, there wouldn’t be massive rewards for doing it. Our societal underinvestment in innovation on behalf kids is the exact macro-inefficiency that creates an extraordinary opportunity for startups. You cannot have the upside without the inefficiency, and you cannot have the inefficiency without the scary-tough market dynamics documented in this series.

The hope is in the difficulty.

The hope is in people.

People want their lives to matter. There is nothing cooler or more rewarding than helping a ton of kids while making a ton of money, PERIOD. Exceptional people are going to find this never-before-possible opportunity to impact learning at scale irresistible — even as it means putting up with a whole lot of aching and uncertainty.

To you reading this right now: there is no way in the world to have a larger impact, and make more money, then by building scalable services for children. Not in health. Not in energy. Not even in ad-tech (pot shot!).

Yeah, it will take a while (like, a long, long, long while).

But, if you’re really good, come build for kids.

And remember,

Wisdom Compounds — and sometimes it comes from unexpected places¹.

  1. Thanks so much for reading this series! If you’ve made it to this footnote, I sincerely appreciate your care for kids, and the time that you took to think though this with me! Thank you.
  2. If you want to go back and review, here are links to the first five posts in the series:

- Part 1: Science introducing the fundamental difficulty of experimentation and innovation in learning.
- Part 2: Safetyexplaining the impact of the default, and appropriate, conservatism in education.
- Part 3: Valuesexploring the tension in the mutually admirable value schemes of educators and the vendors that serve them.
- Part 4: Underinvestmentinvestigating the empathy and funding gap for children’s problems.
- Part 5: Tradeoffsconcluding with the practical difficulties of building products for children and bringing them to market.

I’d love to hear your feedback if you have any; just email anytime! Otherwise, go build for kids!

Thoughts from the founders of Edify on startups, education, and occasionally ice cream.