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Conscious Entrepreneurship: May I introduce John Edelson



by Demee Koch

John Edelson has a long history in Silicon Valley and London with various cutting edge technology companies working in computer graphics and entertainment, primarily in video games and computer animation for films. A long-time advocate of education, Edelson saw a need for more engaging software in the ed tech industry. He discovered a passion for creating a better homeschooling curriculum and delivering it to families with wrap-around services.

Edelson then founded Time4Learning, an online homeschooling platform that provides a high-quality, effective online learning curriculum for students as well as time-saving tools and useful resources for parents. The comprehensive platform combines Edelson’s expertise in creating engaging and dynamic multimedia with his commitment to making software easy to use for parents and students by providing wrap-around services. These services range from planning tools for parents, an online playground with educational games for kids, plus articles and videos to help parents understand the educational goals for each grade and subject.

I started the company conscious of a few fundamentals: I was committed to providing a quality, rigorous education that was effective at teaching students. For me, education does not mean providing information which goes in one ear and out the other; it is a process that transforms the student by building skills, insights, and understanding. I am convinced that great interactive software programs can lead people through this process.

I was also conscious that building and assembling such a program would take time, building the business and software was a long-term commitment. I wasn’t aiming at a “quick hit.” I wanted to take my time to assemble a team with the same commitment and understanding.

My third principle was that I wanted a direct relationship with our members so we could learn as we grew. As a conscious point of principle — and because of limited resources as a startup — I was customer support. I answered emails and the phone, I actively participated in social media (back then it was Yahoo groups, forums, and blogs), and I asked questions. My goal was to get a firsthand deep, nuanced understanding of homeschoolers and what they liked and needed, what confused them, what they believed in, and so on. Many of my Harvard MBA friends felt I should not have been so hands-on, but others cheered me on to personally develop a deep understanding of my market.

I believe having a conscious set of principles like — effective education, a long-term team approach, and a close connection with the customer — was my key to being an entrepreneur who beat the odds and successfully created a meaningful and profitable enterprise.

When my kids were young, I loved watching the moment a concept clicked. The twinkle in their eye and the confidence it instilled was awe-inspiring. As the years passed and technology became an ever-present, I realized there was an opportunity for me to apply my Silicon Valley skills to effect change and provide children with a way to bring that sparkle to their eye while accomplishing important educational objectives.

I thought, “rather than games which had no particular goal beyond entertainment, I could create educational software.” In fact, my ambition became to build a digital curriculum that covered a comprehensive set of learning goals. There is nothing more rewarding than parents sharing that their children have discovered a joy for learning, thanks to the curriculum we’ve created.

I have many mentors. I believe everyone I meet can teach me something new or a better approach to a situation. I’ve created a mental Rolodex of people who were excellent negotiators or the most patient leaders, for example, and gleaned their knowledge when I needed it.

When I am faced with a work challenge, I think through my previous colleagues and mentors and I identify someone who would be better at solving the problem at hand than me. For instance, when I’m meeting with a company partner, I’ll envisage it as a sales challenge and then I’ll start thinking about the best salesperson I know and use their “playbook.”

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