Remind: creating and monetizing an edtech platform
Remind provided a free communications platform for teachers and parents that amassed scale of 35M teachers. But, they’ve struggled with figuring out how to monetize – and have large tech companies entering as competition in the edtech space.
Remind was founded in 2011 as a messaging app to connect teachers and parents (and older students). Teachers could use Remind to send class-wide messages and individualized notes to parents about grades or student behavior. In a fragmented education system where edtech companies aren’t gaining traction, Remind boasts 35M users across more than half US K12 schools and 20M monthly active users (1).
How did Remind build this platform to create value?
Remind offers their product for free to both teachers and parents. Remind immediately focused on delivering as much value as possible for teachers because it is critical that they gain strong adoption on the teacher side. It is very unlikely that teachers will multi-home as they are looking for a single hub to manage communications – therefore, it can be classified as a “winner take all” market on the teacher side. The platform has one-sided network effects – teachers influencing parents of their class to sign up to add value. Other than that, it is not relevant to teachers if other teachers in their school are signed up, or if parents of students outside their classroom are signed up.
Because of those dynamics, Remind recognized that they needed to deliver a very strong value proposition to teachers so that they could quickly build market share for teachers and experience virality and positive word of mouth effects in growing the business. Remind is incredibly teacher-oriented in the work they do, with team members spending 1 hour a week talking with teachers (2). This teacher orientation, building a product that doesn’t require district support, and offering the product for free for teachers allowed them to quickly capture 35M teachers in the US.
In order to create stronger network effects, Remind has recently added administrators (school principals and staff) to their platform. Having more teachers and parents already on the platform drives more school and district administrators to join the platform, which in turn attracts more teachers and parents to the platform – a great example of cross-side network effects. Because of the challenge of selling to districts, it would have been challenging for them to start with administrators from the start, but once they had a foothold in over 50% of US schools, these network effects with administrators quickly started to build (2).
How can they capture value?
Remind’s first attempt at monetizing this platform was by monetizing the parent side of the application in 2016. They recognized the importance of keeping the teacher side free and easy to use. They built “Activities” a product that simplified the permission slip and money collection process for teachers and schools. Parents would be able to pay for activities through the platform and Remind would capture 5% (3). But, a year later they closed this product down (4).
Since, Remind has launched its second monetization strategy –a premium version of Remind for schools and districts. The core application will be free, but they are offering value added services like integration with student systems and a dashboard to track communications for a fee per student (4).
Remind’s pivot in monetization provides a lesson in identifying which side of your platform to monetize. Remind recognized the importance of keeping the platform free for teachers to maintain high market share, but they didn’t originally correctly identify what other sides of the platform would be willing to pay for the service. More closely testing willingness to pay and identifying the value of your product (communication over a field trip payment system) is incredibly important.
The biggest competitors challenge that Remind faces in the future is large technology companies, such as Google, that have products for the education market – and amassed scale. Google could easily replicate Remind’s communications platform on top of their email, document and learning management system for schools and instantly push Remind out of the market because they already have scale with their key network drivers: teachers and administrators. Currently, Google Classroom has not yet connected in parents as a part of their network – but it possibly could be achieved. Additionally, Google can continue to provide these services for free to teachers, schools, districts and parents because they are monetizing by selling their Chromebooks – making “$30 per device by selling management services” (5). To defend their position, Remind should protect their parent community which Google does not have, building out parent trust in data security and potentially engaging parent-to-parent communities through Remind. Therefore, parents entrenched in Remind will not as quickly switch to Google if they start offering these products.
(1) Zerega, Blaise. “Education App Remind Passes 20 Million Active Users and Names Brian Grey CEO.” VentureBeat, VentureBeat, 14 Sept. 2016, venturebeat.com/2016/09/14/education-app-remind-passes-20-million-active-users-and-names-brian-grey-ceo/.
(2) Hullinger, Jessica. “Remind Launches New Slack-Like App For Schools.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 18 Apr. 2017, fastcompany.com/3056642/remind-launches-new-slack-like-app-for-schools.
(3) Montgomery, Blake. “Remind’s Path to Revenue: Processing Payments for School Events – EdSurge News.” EdSurge, EdSurge, 11 Jan. 2018, www.edsurge.com/news/2016-08-23-remind-monetizes-with-new-activities-feature
(4) Wan, Tony. “Remind’s Race to Conquer the K-12 Communications Market-and Make Money – EdSurge News.” EdSurge, EdSurge, 29 Aug. 2017, edsurge.com/news/2017-08-29-remind-s-race-to-conquer-the-k-12-communications-market-and-beyond.
(5) Singer, Natasha. “How Google Took Over the Classroom.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 May 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/technology/google-education-chromebooks-schools.html.
Student comments on Remind: creating and monetizing an edtech platform
Given the K-12 classroom is becoming more dynamic, I wonder if the fundamental product needs to advance beyond mere communications. I see a messaging service as necessary but not sufficient for educators, students, and parents to begin paying. Mobile / online collaboration spaces, workbooks, and customized exercise builder would provide the larger ecosystem of products that can mirror and enhance the classroom experience. Such functions would not only differentiate Remind but also increase stickiness as it becomes both a platform and an educational tool. I also wonder what pain point Remind is actually solving. I’m not familiar with primary and secondary education but is messaging between administrators, teachers, and parents a truly critical issue?
Great article. Yes, Remind has become a favorite amongst many teachers. However, there are a plethora of new products being marketed to parents and teachers. I think besides Google, some of the biggest competitors Remind might face in the future are existing learning management systems — which can integrate assignments, student performance, and reminders for parents all in one platform (as long as they provide a stellar user experience). Another problem that Remind needs to address is translation — not sure if they’ve done anything on this yet. However, immigrant parents might have the largest barrier in understanding their children’s performance if English is not their first language.