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这家教育初创公司在浪费了2亿美元后转型

AltSchool更名为Altitude Learning,变成了自己从一开始就避免被看作的科技公司。

AltSchool的创始人及CEO麦克斯·文提拉在TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014大会上发言。他的初创企业在花了2亿美元后开始转型。

两周前,资金过度充足的旧金山教育初创公司AltSchool宣布了似乎不可避免的“转型”计划。该公司将把剩下的几所学校改组成有儿童教育经验的组织。同时,公司将更名为Altitude Learning,变成了自己从一开始就避免被看作的科技公司。另外,它将由职业教育者负责经营,而它那些的创始人都不属于这个行列(《快公司》杂志对上述调整进行了精彩评述)。

三年多以前我曾经撰文指出,AltSchool在儿童教育方面的创新方法让我很感兴趣。同时,我也注意到了创立这家公司的谷歌前员工的自负——他们觉得自己可以在孩子们身上做试验。时任首席执行官的麦克斯·文提拉将AltSchool比作“边建造边飞行的飞机”。当时我的观点是:“神志清醒的人绝不会对一架飞在天上的飞机修修补补。而AltSchool却要求家长花钱去买让子女成为小白鼠的特权。”

他们的试验并未成功。在硅谷这没有什么可惭愧的,大量证据表明,硅谷人的理念是为失败而庆祝。但同样的,仅仅因为某人帮助某个革命性信息搜索算法实现商业化而大赚了一笔,就要有理性的人相信这种算法有什么机会对教育或其他某个无关领域进行改革,这样的时代看来已经走到了尽头。

另外,我禁不住去想,如果AltSchool的那些创始人找到了某种途径,进而在他们的业务覆盖的城市把近2亿美元风投资金用在改善公立学校教育上,而不是尝试用技术改变这个世界,那会出现什么样的局面。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校:夏林

The exceedingly well-funded San Francisco education startup AltSchool announced a seemingly inevitable “pivot” last week. It is turning over its few remaining schools to an organization with experience educating children. At the same time it will rename itself Altitude Learning and become the thing it avoided from the git-go, a technology company. That company also will be run by career educators, which AltSchool’s founders are not. (Fast Company has a good overview of the changes.)

I wrote more than three years ago that I was intrigued by AltSchool because of its innovative approach to educating kids. At the same time, I noted the arrogance of the ex-Google employees who started AltSchool for thinking they could experiment on children. Then-CEO Max Ventilla compared AltSchool to “flying the plane while we’re building it.” My observation at the time: “No one in their right mind would tinker with an airborne plane. Yet AltSchool asks parents to pay for the privilege ofsupplying their children as guinea pigs.”

The experiment didn’t work. There’s no shame in that in Silicon Valley, whose well-documented ethos celebrates failure. Then again, the era seems to be passing when reasonable people will believe that just because someone made a bunch of money helping commercialize a revolutionary information-searching algorithm that they have a chance in hell of reforming education—or some other unrelated field.

I also can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the founders of AltSchool had figured out a way to spend the nearly $200 million in venture capital they raised to improve education in the public schools in the cities where their company operated rather than trying to change the world with technology.

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