Eight tips from an Edtech Entrepreneur
One of the priority themes that is regularly raised by heritage stakeholders is the importance of entrepreneurship, and particularly at the interface of conservation, interpretation, education and new technology. This month we continue to explore the education and entrepreneurship dimension with an interview with Serdar Ferit.
What are the most important ingredients when you set up a new venture? Entrepreneur, film maker and educationalist, Serdar Ferit shared his personal and professional journey with the 4DHeritage team, and described the surprising discoveries that he and his partner, Paulina have made on the way, as they built their award winning edtech business.
Serdar and Paulina’s vision was to use their skills and knowledge to deliver a product that would inspire future generations to make a positive impact in the world. The result was Lyfta. Lyfta’s platform was created to support teachers in tackling complex themes and topics with the best tools to introduce different global phenomena in the classroom.
Lyfta invites students to experience different cultures and perspectives, and in doing so it gives students the opportunity to see and connect with positive human stories from around the world. Through this content and their lesson plans, it enables students to learn about ideas such as resilience, problem-solving, teamwork, and many other critical skills, values and competencies which they will need as they form their own world view and the opportunities for both earning a living and making a difference.
For teachers it helps them build on the formal curriculum to nurture the global citizens of tomorrow. Lyfta is now used in hundreds of schools in the UK and Finland.
Since then, Serdar and Paulina have received international recognition as innovators: TES The EdTech 50 in 2020, Winner: Reimagine Education Global EdTech Award 2020, HundrED Global inspiring innovations in education 2018 & 2019, Winner: Global Edtech Startup Award Scandinavia 2018, and Winner: World Summit Award for Education & Learning 2017.
Ultimately, Serdar and Paulina aim to have an immersive story from every single country in the world on their platform, accessible to a global audience.
So here are an eight tips....
1. Find a partner who shares your vision, your enthusiasm and is mutually supportive.
Serdar and his partner Paulina Tervo discovered a shared passion for documentary film making as university students in London. Paulina visited Ethiopia in 2004 and was so inspired by a particular community’s approach to life that she was compelled to share the story. Over the course of the next 10 years Paulina and Serdar changed their ideas on what a documentary was, thinking more deeply about how such experiences could be shared in a more active and meaningful way. That led to an extraordinary partnership and journey which led both to starting a family as well as founding the award winning ‘edtech’ company Lyfta in 2016.
2. Focus on quality
Serdar and Paulina identified Germany’s leading panoramic image maker and began a collaboration with him. This focus on quality meant that the first production when it premiered the experience created huge interest and invitations came to show it and talk about it and places and forums that included the Guardian, Cambridge University, and a TEDx in Finland.
3. Be patient
It takes time to get things right. The first immersive production took ten years before they were ready for it to be premiered. Along the way there will be ups and downs and the partner or team you have around you are key to getting through those times.
4. Learn from other sectors
The richness of the experience and how a user interacts with it builds on ideas from film making, teaching, game design and many other sectors. Whilst formal education remains very conservative, often bound by curriculums, other sectors such as gaming technologies are fast moving and constantly exploring new insights into consumer engagement. By drawing on insights from other sectors and applying them to the Lyfta experiences, they are able to leverage technology that is already developed and proven in other fields.
5. Share it with a diversity of audiences
Whilst the initial immersive experience was designed for a ‘world aware’ audience, the real breakthrough came when the experience was shown to primary school children.
6. Be objective and critical about the feedback you receive
Often people look for feedback that endorses their original concept, reinforcing their original thinking about their business proposition. Serdar and Paulina tested their approach in places which might not be sympathetic to their own world view. They might reasonably have avoided such audiences, but instead they embraced them and through objective analysis they discovered that their approach to sharing people’s perspectives and stories, could lead to a measurable change in attitudes, challenging prejudice and actually promoting tolerance in a way that could be measured.
7. A subscription business model helps financial sustainability and promotes innovation
Lyfta may well have clear social and environmental benefits but it is set up as a business. Some may argue that the public benefits of this approach are so self-evident that it should be publicly funded. However, setting this venture up as a business makes it easier to invest in the platform, and paying customers will be more demanding - and those demands will continue to drive in the innovation process. However there is a challenge in that educational budgets are tight and major expenditure often needs lengthy approval processes. A subscription model linked to a teacher and a class makes the use of Lyfta much more affordable and thus accessible.
A subscription model works well for an innovative company who will be bringing out fresh content and new features every year.
8. Keep exploring ideas, and adapting your approach.
The journey is more important than the destination. Serdar and Paulina have come a long way since they set out to produce one of the best immersive documentaries. Chance encounters and radical insights have led them along a path they could never have imagined when they first set out on their journey.
For learning more about Lyfta, visit their website: https://www.lyfta.com
To explore how digital is transforming education, allowing it to be more engaging, more adaptive and more personal visit this blog written by Nicholas Mellor, about how to make online learning more social and break that sense of isolation that has become a feature of online learning during the Coronavirus crisis ‘https://www.elrha.org/project-blog/making-line-training-social-experience/.
To explore how immersive technologies can bring us closer to people and places, See the ELHRA blog https://www.elrha.org/project-blog/immersive-technology-public-outreach-advocacy/, and discover how this could open us the path for virtual tourism, more compelling advocacy and impactful training.