What a super exciting past month in Canadian education. Give Credit where credit is due! Congratulations to our MindShare Digital Learning Video Challenge winner, Jacob Lingley, Eastern Canada Winner, who enjoyed some celebrity status recently on CBC Radio. A short while later he had a surprise visit from the local TV station. It truly is a fascinating time to be in education.
Vicki Bigham Private Sector CoSN Champion
Congrats to MindShare long time friend and associate, Vicki Bigham, for the honor bestowed upon her by CoSN as Private Sector Champion. CoSN works with many companies and individuals in the private sector who are making important contributions to education technology. Each year we recognize one person who has had an outstanding impact on the ed tech community outside of the confines of his or her job.
MindShare’s long time friend and associate, Jim Kirchner, former president of LearningStation announced he’s moved to take on an executive position with Amplify, the company that recently launched a table bundled with content. The company behind this initiative is a familiar name in the media, Newscorp. They have been met with some criticism in entering the market.
Here they grow again! It was great visiting the Edsy team recently up in Markham. I was impressed meeting their new marketing VP Dallas Kachan. His credentials are impressive which will bode well for this EdTech start-up that rounds out their management team led by John Myers, Co-founder and president.
Nancy Knowlton, co-founder of SMART Technologies was not about to sail into the sunset after her departure from SMART. She has a new start-up Byye Labs with a small connection to Edsby as they recently made an investment in the fledgling startup.
Memory lane! The Learning Company and a lesson in Branding. Last weekend, while doing some spring cleaning, I came across a nostalgic mouse pad from my days running The Learning Company School Division in Canada, working for the branding master turned TV celebrity, Kevin O’Leary. Here’s an excellent case study that was conducted by Tuck School of Business that provides some deep insights into the demise of TLC and Mattel, a global powerhouse in delivering high quality software to schools, with brands such as Broderbund, Creative Wonders, and MindScape, to name a few. There are some great lessons, especially for the multitude of EdTech start-ups entering the education space.
Five things I learned working for Kevin O’Leary, since I’m often asked about Kevin and what it was like to work for him and his company:
1. Kevin was a master at branding and proved to be a great mentor to me in this regard. Building a Brand is an art and a science. Protect and celebrate your brand when you have a winner. It doesn’t happen overnight
2. Backup your brand with a quality product.
3. Align your brand through acquisitions with equal value or higher. Never diminish your brand.
4. Do your homework when looking at acquisitions. A lack of due diligence was one of the key reasons for the failed acquisition of TLC by Mattel
5. 1 plus 1 does not always equal, 2 When integrating a company through acquisition, sales volumes will likely decline, where a sales team now has an additional line of products to sell. They typically go with what they are most comfortable with. This was certainly the case with TLC.
My learning curve was certainly kept steep for the three years I spent with TLC under the leadership of Kevin O’Leary. It reminds me of a song by Kenny Rogers, “You need to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run”. That was unfortunately the case with TLC. Education was not Kevin’s passion. He’s often talked about how complex and unpredictable the education sales cycles can be. There’s no smooth hockey curve stick, which really was the basis of let’s aggregate some of the top brands in the EdTech sector and head for the hills. There’s a tremendous sense of pride when you’re #1, top of the heap. The reality is it’s extremely challenging to stay at the top. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. I wouldn’t trade my challenging experience that saw the darling of Wall Street, Jill Berard, then Mattel president, fall from grace. And Kevin O’Leary chose another profession in broadcasting. I’m most grateful for those experiences that led me to establish MindShare Learning.
Dino Miele, DSBN CIO, is pictured with Astronaut Chris Hadfield at a recent MaRS event. It would be great to have Astronaut Chris Hadfield present at Connect next year!
Until next time, keep the digital learning curve steep!