QA with Alicia Herald, 2014 Innovator of the Year

As this year’s Innovator of the Year competition approaches, we thought we would check in with last year’s winner of the Pipeline prize. Alicia Herald is founder and CEO of myEDmatch, a site that matches teachers and schools to increase retention. SPN caught up with Herald over the phone. SPN: Since you won IOTY last year, what’s happened…

alicia_herald_featured

alicia_herald_featured

As this year’s Innovator of the Year competition approaches, we thought we would check in with last year’s winner of the Pipeline prize. Alicia Herald is founder and CEO of myEDmatch, a site that matches teachers and schools to increase retention. SPN caught up with Herald over the phone.

SPN: Since you won IOTY last year, what’s happened with myEDmatch?

AH: We’ve had a great year. We exceeded our goal in terms of teach acquisition and revenue. We hit pretty ambitious goal numbers and are expanding our product line. This year we had 25,000 active job seekers using [our service] and matching with schools.

SPN: As an entrepreneur, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

AH: I think it would be how to remain nimble and innovative while trying to grow rapidly.

For me personally, one of the biggest lessons I learned was that sometimes the customer actually tells you where to head next if you’re willing to listen. There were conversations where we learned weren’t meeting our customers needs and that led to new product enhancements and a new product line.

SPN: Based on your position in the education technology and career space, where do you see the future of your field?

AH: The market dynamics that we have in play, specifically in K-12 in education talent, are in for a dramatic shift. There are 3.2 million public school teachers and many of them, the Baby Boomers, are set to retire in the coming decades. And over the past 5 years we’ve seen a significant drop in the number of teachers going into training programs, so we expect an even more significant shortage in the years ahead.

That trend fits nicely with what we do. We believe that if we can put a teacher in a better fit school they will stay for longer in their career.

“the bigger our network can be, the more we can compete with the coasts”

SPN: You’re from Kansas City. You went to school in St. Louis. You launched myEDmatch in Kansas City. Now you’re back in St. Louis. What’s been your experience working across two cities?

AH: Having had experience in the startup world both in Kansas City and then moving my company in year two to St. Louis, I feel like I benefited from both of those connections. Now Pipeline is providing that natural bridge to a wider network, which I think is so important.

This work is tough enough that if we can leverage more resources from across the Midwest region, I think we’ll see more and more companies staying here.

SPN: What are some examples of the support you’ve received in Kansas City and St. Louis?

AH: I would say access to mentors. Over here in St. Louis I’ve had access to great mentors in SaaS-based businesses, so they’ve helped me figure out what my KPIs should be. I feel like I’ve had a lot of marketing support from Kansas City that I continue to leverage even though we’ve moved.

Being able to pick and choose the assets of different cities has been helpful. In the middle of the country, the bigger our network can be, the more we can compete with the coasts.

SPN: For whoever wins this year’s Innovator of the Year, what’s your best advice to them?

AH: If you talk to any Pipeline members or any of the previous Innovators of the Year, it’s all about the celebration and the fun of seeing how far the class has come. They say there’s bragging rights, but at the end of it I was so proud of the group of guys I went through this class with. It’s much less about a title, and more about the relationships you’ve built with your peers over the course of that year and holding on to those.

I would argue that my group, the 2014 class, was the best class that ever went through Pipeline, and we still have an active group chat. I email them, I’m on the phone with them. We support each other across the region as much as possible.

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