Educational robots are not robots

Jibo, which once attracted attention as an American startup, is a social robot product that I also ordered and received a refund for. The concept was good, but in the end, in order for the product to become a platform, there must be a “killer app”, and I think that failure to make it is a key factor of failure.
In other words, Jibo doesn’t have a killer function either as a “product”, and it seems that it has too limited technology as a platform. In other words, the concept of the hardware itself was advanced, but the “voice recognition” technology itself was not as excellent as the AI ​​speaker, and the freedom of the hardware/software platform was not as high as that of Android as developers flocked to it. If you want to do a “product” platform strategy, this is a good benchmark.
It is almost impossible for a product platform to be a platform from scratch. That’s why the above “Jibo” also failed. At first, it was positioned as a “social robot” while aiming for a “platform”, but it is not clear what the “core functions” such as whether this is a robot-based messenger, a robot-based “educational tool”, a robot-based “intelligent friend”, etc. Did not. For example, if Jibo had satisfied its core functions as “voice search” or “music speaker” as in “smart speaker”, the results would have been different.

See: Smart Speaker Owners Agree That Questions, Music, and Weather are Killer Apps. What Comes Next?

If we apply this framework to educational robot startups, which have recently attracted attention again, my opinion is as follows.
In Korea, there is a company that recently started a “educational robot” start-up making a similar proposal, and I would like to ask this question from a technology/product/service platform perspective with the same framework.
From a technology point of view, I would like to ask if your product is truly “robot technology”. If the technology itself is good, you need to be able to show which elements of the technology are “numerically” better than your competitors. All skills must eventually be able to describe their worth in “numbers”. It must be faster, more efficient, or cheaper than competing technologies. And if that’s possible, either license the technology or commercialize it, or provide the technology itself to third parties and create an ecosystem. This is the IP-based platform business strategy for companies like ARM.

From a product point of view, in a rapidly expanding market like coding education, is it a “educational product” that is cheaper than competitors or can reduce the labor cost of instructors, is it superior to other competitive educational robot products, or is it possible for students to actively participate? It should be presented if it is a product with an interesting element. If so, the product can be sold, and the product itself can evolve into a product platform. In other words, it exposes hardware to content developers and operates as a platform for educational content developers to grow. Not all products can be “platform” in the first place. With more than 100,000 products sold, a “customer network” is created, and there is a “channel” through which third-party content can be provided to them, and as a result, the marketplace should look attractive to third parties.

Sometimes there are people who claim that “educational robots” companies are “robots,” but I don’t think the competitiveness of “educational robots” comes from “robot hardware”. “Education” is the essence. Therefore, I think that it is not appropriate to talk about competitiveness as a robot because it is using robots for education. I think the essence of “educational content business” is “contents” business. I see that the essence of the competitiveness of an education company is the originality of “content”, “diversity”, “creativity” and “storytelling”, so there is a limit to the competitiveness of the “robot”-based education business from the technology of “robot”. see.

Likewise, when it comes to “VR-based surgical education business”, VR technology is only part of the competitiveness, but the essence is in “surgical education” content. This means that enabler technology is not a Core Value. As in the previous example, if the “technology” itself is competitive, you should be able to sell the “technology” itself, not the “product”. Therefore, I don’t think it is appropriate to say that an “educational robot” company is a “robot technology company”.

Finally, you can think of a platform strategy that can grow into a marketplace where you can share a variety of educational content. Among EduTech companies in China and the US, most of the companies with high corporate value are “service platform” companies, or “marketplaces”. It is a market platform between instructors providing educational services and students receiving educational services.

Therefore, educational robots are theoretically products based on proprietary technology, and if the educational effect is good with original educational content, and based on this, you can create a customer network. And in order to secure the diversity of content, it is possible to grow into a marketplace platform that engages educational service providers as third parties. And we just have to sell the “product platform” that will continue to be the center of the platform and allow third parties to lock-in. And that’s what the smartphone ecosystem looks like now.

I believe that the “market” and “product power” are the key factors in the growth of early-stage companies. Of course, the team’s ability should be more than basic. If the market is mature and your company’s products have already been verified, it’s mostly a “marketing” war. However, the definition of “start-up” as an early-stage company is a company that does business with “no nominal market” or “unverified product” yet.

In general, the “market situation” has too many factors out of our control. Logically, neither prediction nor explanation is easy. So most say “luck” is important. But “product power” is a factor we control and should be able to be explained logically. What is the nature of your products and services? Where does intrinsic competitiveness come from? How does it stand out from its competitors? What should you invest in to stay competitive? This is the “strategy” for a company’s competitiveness.

The educational robot market will grow. If you can imagine, the final look will be the “Educational Robot Teacher” you’ve seen in the “Atom” cartoon, probably only 50 years later. In fact, the “Jibo” demo video showed that “dream”, but it ended up with a “concept” video.

But now, it is the stage where online universities are spreading in earnest. It is still a dream to be an “educational robot teacher”, and we are making a realistic educational robot that “educates logic skills based on robots and coding”. Of course, the market for “education of logic” for young people already exists and will exist forever.

But we can’t call it a “robot company” just because we do robot-based education. It’s an “educational company”. It is a company that provides educational content with robots. Therefore, educational content is more important than robot technology. It is the use of robots as media that provides educational content.

I think that the education business is mainly about education philosophy and storytelling. Or, you will have to become a “media” company to deliver educational content at all. It took a lot of time for internet technology to be recognized as an independent industry. I think the educational robot market is still in the stage of focusing on “intrinsic value”. That is “content”.

Reference: Educational Robot Market

Michael Hwang, Bigbang Angels, top early-stage VC in Korea




Managing Director of Bigbang Angels and PlatformLabs, Pte. Ltd, Angel investor, Platform business model expert

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

2 Ideas that Bothers Me!

Overview of the modern payment solutions vs. classic banks

Indoor Positioning Systems Today and Ahead: A Primer on Technology, Applicability and Consumption

Your Car Is A Better Driver Than You

Why is that Nike shoe following me around the Internet?

Disrupting Colonizer Consciousness in Silicon Valley 👾⌫

What a supersonic jet, an animation studio, and Steve Jobs tell us about building great teams

Ten new e-health projects were launched during the Digital Health Hackathon

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Michael (ByungSun) Hwang

Michael (ByungSun) Hwang

Managing Director of Bigbang Angels and PlatformLabs, Pte. Ltd, Angel investor, Platform business model expert

More from Medium

Staying above the IT “Security Poverty Line”

How Samsung Is Evolving With The Perspective Of The Future.

South Korea Samsung Building

How Sustainable Is Gogoro’s Bottomless Energy Model?

Don’t be a saviour: What we’re learning about Social Value