Underweight Deal: EdTech Without Proof of Product/Market Fit

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ASK Education has been selected as an “Underweight Deal” by KingsCrowd. This distinction is reserved for deals not selected into the top 10%-20% of our due diligence funnel. If you have questions regarding our deal diligence and selection methodology, please reach out to hello@kingscrowd.com. 


Over 55 million children are attending elementary, middle, and high schools each day in the United States, and many of them are woefully underprepared to live healthy, happy, and productive lives upon graduation. 


Nutrition is just one area where schools and school districts are doing a poor job of empowering students to make healthy choices. Currently, 71% of school districts in the US have no policy regarding the promotion of healthy food choices in schools. This lack of clarity surrounding nutrition education is likely contributing to the rising rate of childhood obesity in the United States, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls a “serious problem.” The CDC reports that 18.5% of children and adolescents from 2-19 were obese, a full 13.7 million. 


Students are also lacking proper education on mental health issues. One in five children suffer from mental illness, and half of them drop out of high school due to lack of support and resources. While an increasing number of states mandate some mental health education in their standardized curriculums, at least a dozen states have no mental health education requirements on the books. 


Furthermore, employers are increasingly demanding strong “soft skills,” such as problem-solving, communicating, and teamwork, but are struggling to find qualified candidates. Almost a third of employers feel that students graduate from college without sufficient soft skill preparedness. However, a bias toward quantitative measurement has reduced the focus on soft skills education in primary and secondary schools. 


Children are sitting in classrooms every day soaking in the quadratic formula, iambic pentameter, and foreign languages, but they’re not gaining the skills they need to be healthy and successful. From health to soft skills, our students are simply unprepared to enter the real world. 


ASK Education seeks to provide a comprehensive suite of educational games that school districts can use to instruct students in health literacy and soft skills. The company plans to build their games in accordance with key features of successful educational tools, including immediate feedback, educator and parent progress tracking, quantitative reporting capabilities (such as hours spent, milestone achievement, etc.), and gamification. ASK Education hopes to replicate familiar gameplay experiences like Minecraft, crosswords, and more. 


ASK Education’s software platform will include three portals, one each for Learners, Parents, and Educators. Learners (students) can access their portal to play games and complete challenges, viewing their learning progress in a dashboard. Parents can use their portal to view their child’s progress on assigned modules and assign learning modules themselves if they home-school their children. Educators access their portal to assign modules to their students and track student progress. 


ASK has not built a product yet and plans to begin with health-related games focusing on mental health, drugs, and alcohol. ASK feels that current products on the market do not provide engaging opportunities to learn these critical topics. 


ASK will function as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company charging school districts monthly subscription fees to use its games. (ASK also plans to operate a small direct-to-consumer business for home-schooling parents). School district pricing will start at $35 per student (it is unclear whether that $35 figure is monthly or annually), with discounts available for bulk licensing. 


ASK has already met with leaders of school districts in Florida, including Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough, which are among the top ten largest school districts in the US. ASK has also met with educational leaders in other school districts and states, as well as government officials in education-adjacent departments. 


ASK Education’s CEO is Dr. Ruth Nemire, PharmD, EdD. Nemire is a healthcare professional and educator, and she previously served as a Senior Vice President at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and as the founding administrator and Dean of two Colleges of Pharmacy. In her transition to educational technology, Nemire hopes to “develop a new platform for learning… that address[es] health, mental health, and nutrition.” 


Two other key members of ASK Education’s team are John Rigoli and Brad Neire. Rigoli is the President and COO of ASK Education. He lends 20 years of experience integrating business and technology with federal agencies. Brad Nemire is ASK’s Vice President of Project Management, and he is contributing his experience as a high school teacher with a background in psychology and education toward the development of ASK’s curriculum. 

Growth Plan

ASK Education is hoping to raise up to $106,999 at a post-money valuation of almost $2.7 million. The company intends to devote approximately 50% of this raised capital to paying designers and developers to produce ASK’s first educational technology platform. Additional capital will be used to compensate managers or consultants, purchase human resources solutions, and market the company. 


ASK Education intends to begin working with school districts in Florida, California, and Texas, areas with high primary and secondary student populations. ASK plans to pilot its educational technology platform with health literacy-focused games and subsequently expand to soft skills games. In 2022 and beyond, ASK intends to expand to college educational resources, before developing resources for health professionals to continue their educations. 

The Rating: Underweight

After careful consideration of the company’s areas of opportunity and seeming weaknesses, ASK Education has been ranked as an Underweight deal. Investors should consider several key risks when evaluating this deal: 



  • Inexperienced team: While ASK Education’s founding team is accomplished in other industries, no manager lends experience in administrative-level education systems or educational technology. While the company’s CEO is an accomplished leader in pharmacy studies who may be able to inform an educational curriculum on health literacy, her experience does not seem relevant to building an educational technology startup prepared to close large-scale deals with school districts. Moreover, the team does not include in-house technical talent that would ideally be present when building a technology company.

  • No proof of product-market fit: ASK Education has not yet launched their educational technology platform, and it is thus impossible to predict whether their proposed games will be attractive for school districts to purchase. It’s notoriously difficult to find success in the edtech market, and investing in a pre-revenue company with no existing product and little demonstrated ability to sell to school districts is particularly risky.  




  • Lack of early focus: While today’s students are certainly underprepared on health literacy and soft skills, ASK Education ought to focus on one mission or the other instead of attempting both concurrently. Educational games focused on nutrition, mental health, and the healthcare system might look markedly different than games focused on soft skills like ethics, creativity, and communication. Arguably, the former is much more facts- and retention-based while the latter is rooted in subjective exploration. Given that ASK’s CEO is a pharmacist, it may make more sense for the company to focus on health education first and address soft skill games much later in the product roadmap after achieving traction within school districts. 



ASK Education is an extremely early-stage company that has not yet developed a viable technology product nor won any contracts with school districts, despite a post-money valuation of almost $2.7 million. Therefore, this deal is Underweight. 

About: Katy Dolan

Katy is a marketing and research consultant to startups (including VC-backed companies, small businesses, and advocacy movements). With experience in tech, venture capital, politics, and non-profits, Katy partners with clients to strategize and execute compelling campaigns focused on user experience and empathetic narrative. Katy graduated cum laude from Harvard College with an AB in Sociology.

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