As the founder of Rootworkz, an ed-tech startup focused on empowering online education in India, I learned many valuable lessons during my entrepreneurial journey. One particularly memorable lesson came from our efforts to develop and sell a learning management system with a built-in AI chatbot.
Our team at Rootworkz had developed a platform that facilitated live online classes by connecting teachers and students across India. The platform provided teachers with a modern, user-friendly learning environment and enabled them to share resources, assess and provide feedback, and encourage collaboration between students. Our goal was to provide an innovative and inclusive learning solution to every student in India, regardless of any digital barriers that might stand in their way.
Initially, we partnered with the education department to implement our solution in government schools. But we wanted to expand even further and tap into the private school sector as well. While working with government schools, we realized that connectivity was not the only challenge facing online education. Teachers struggled to engage students in online learning, and we saw an opportunity to develop an AI chatbot that could help make online learning more engaging and fun for students. This is how "RootBot" was born, an AI bot which enabled students to stay engaged throughout the online learning process, and helping teachers improve the learning outcome.
We presented our chatbot at multiple business summits and even won the prestigious IIT- Bombay Eureka, Asia's largest business model competition. This exposure helped us connect with multiple venture capitalists who expressed interest in investing in our MVP product. However, during our interactions with these investors, we received feedback that we should focus on developing a web plugin to integrate our chatbot with popular LMS platforms like Canvas and Blackboard Learn. They wanted our chatbot to be independent and not tied to our own Rootworkz Learning Management System.
Despite this feedback from multiple investors, we decided to focus on developing the chatbot within our own LMS, confident that we could sell the complete product globally. As we worked on developing our learning management system and chatbot, we encountered multiple bugs and issues that compromised the quality of our product. One of the main reasons for this was that we did not have a large enough team to support the development of both the LMS and chatbot. However, even beyond the technical challenges we faced, we ultimately realized that we were unable to get any sales conversions from schools. Despite the value and innovation of the AI chatbot feature, the schools were hesitant to switch to a new learning management system just for this feature. They were content with their existing systems and did not want to go through the hassle and cost of changing to a new system. This cost of change, which included things like training teachers and students on the new system, transitioning to new policies and processes, and potentially paying for a new system, was too high for the schools to justify the benefits they would receive from the chatbot feature. Ultimately, this cost of change proved to be a significant barrier to our success in selling the product to schools.
As we learned the hard way, it's important for entrepreneurs to understand the cost of change for their customers and create products that have a low switching cost. While it's important to develop focused features that meet the extrinsic needs of users, it's equally important to consider their intrinsic needs, such as the cost of change, in order to create a successful product. In our case, while the AI chatbot was a valuable and innovative feature, the cost of switching to a new learning management system for schools was too high, resulting in our failure to sell the product. This lesson taught me the importance of considering all aspects of customer needs and developing a product that meets those needs in a way that is practical and feasible for the customer.