A year ago I started meeting some interesting people working on an innovative idea for the educational or learning market. As I had just started working on an idea with a team (MaxClass) I was inspired to meet more of them but somehow it doesn’t happen too often. Maybe it’s because learning happens all over the place so that the (non existant but potential) ‘scene’ is spread all over the place making it less likely that we meet each other.
So maybe meeting each other, learning from each other and have some fun together needs a little push. So here it is: a gettogether called Totally Edu, a group of educational startups and other innovators. The first people that have joined are from Drillster, Skillio, Movietrader, Mathgarden, Joyrite, Cool Learning and a couple more.
Are you an entrepreneur, developer, designer, creator, funder, researcher or educational specialist and are you working on bringing exciting new technology or other innovations to schools or other learning environments? Are you part of this friendly, passionate scene? Do you want to share some experiences at events (let’s start in a café)?
Ever tried funding a startup? I’ve been told that there is a 1 in 500 chance you will succeed (once you’ve developed a great idea). With this in mind I started looking for funding for MaxClass – a new private social network for education. After we had started development in April 2010 using our own money, we knew we could last a bit longer than a year. As I think I’m at least a bit smarter than the average entrepreneur (we all do I’m sure), I told myself that good pitch and about 100 meetings should do the trick. We did after all have a brilliant idea.
When started MaxClass last year we invested time – a great deal of time – in researching and testing the brand name. I would be embarrassed to tell you which names I came up with and tested with a list of people across Europe and the states. I even came up with one name that every single person in my test panel had complaints about. Too hard to pronounce, too hard to remember, sounds like a swear word in my language, makes me think of ….
I have already thanked all the people in the US, Italy, France, the Netherlands and England for all the candid reactions I got. But the thing was: every time we actually had to go and buy the domain and it was starting to cost money.
In the book Getting Real by 37Signals.com, they say that a weak domain like BasecampHQ.com is not really a bad thing. I guess they are successful enough to have a point but I just didn’t want a name like that. So let’s say that this is one of the few things I disagree with in that great book.
So name after name bit the dust and our working title “Klas.nl” (nice in in the Netherlands where we were going to launch) was getting too well known. I think I would have liked to have read the research by T. Clifton Green and Russell E. Jame , two scientists who show that short names which contain of recognizable words lead to better valuated companies. So it better to be called MaxClass than SSalcXam. You can download the paper here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1777256
So how did that end? As our company is called Maximonster Interactive Things (after the French and Dutch translation of Where the Wild Things Are – a brilliant children’s’ book), it now doesn’t seem unlikely that we would use the Max.. somehow – especially as I wanted a name that contained ‘class’ to reflect the importance of the class and to be slightly recognizable). Still, I just didn’t come up with it and kept testing weaker names. One day I walked into the office and Marc Worrel, the main architect, noted (not even looking up) that we might as well call the whole thing MaxClass…
Now anyone that has claimed a domain name knows that a nice name like that would be owned by some domain-reseller that wants to make a profit. In this case it was just being auctioned off and I discovered that there were automatic biddings being done of 65 USD. So being Dutch and stingy (and smart J) I bid 70 USD and beat five automatic bids. And so, we had a name which every single person in the test panel loved.
After months of hard work and more recently 15 hour days, we made it. MaxClass went live for our private beta and we celebrated at NEMO, the science museum in Amsterdam. The director of the museum Michiel Buchel said many very nice things about us. Thank you NEMO!
I wanted to drop one here and I think this one is great and it’s much deserved that Marc Worrell our senior architect would be posted here. He’s watching one of the thirty people cutting the 20 meters of ribbon we had (purple of course). I promised that anybody that hung onto the piece of ribbon untill we have one million users, gets 100 Euro. This must be a 1000% increase of value!
We hope to be going live (as in really live January)
I guess it isn’t really good Dutch modesty to compare our MaxClass to LinkedIn and Facebook, while we’re just starting off.
And why? Well we think that MaxClass is a fundamental idea, something that will be useful at school and at home. We love both LinkedIn and Facebook and think they have changed how we do business and deal with friends. MaxClass should really change communication at schools. It is about time it does anyway – and the internet is ready for it!
And it also isn’t a simple get-rich-quick-scheme. You need a lot of users to run a social network – so we also aim at quite high volumes of users – especially as we’re going to give most of it away for free.
For the time being we need to launch and that we will be doing!
It’s happening at NEMO in Amsterdam on November 12th!