One of the unofficial news items to come out of HighEdWeb11 last month was the formal unveiling of a new service for the higher ed community called RecoVend. The brainchild of Kyle Judah (the CEO) and Jason Woodward (CIO), RecoVend is designed to help higher ed marketing types navigate the ever-growing world of consultants and third-party services by leveraging the knowledge of the higher ed marketing community. RecoVend = recommend a vendor. Get it?
According to their company’s about page, RecoVend began “with just a thought — why isn’t there a resource for educators to help gather information and best practices on the products and services they use.” Kyle and Jason set about answering that question. They determined that a resource to enable the higher ed community to share insights about third-party services and consultants was the way to go. Along the way, they recruited Joel Goodman, who recently joined the team as RecoVend’s creative director.
RecoVend is still in alpha mode, and the site is pretty bare-bones (a condition Joel promises to remedy soon). But members of the higher ed community may join the RecoVend community now. It’s a great opportunity to crowdsource knowledge about vendors at a singe site, and in a more confidential manner. I think RecoVend has great potential.
I wanted to find out more about RecoVend’s plans, so I asked Kyle and Jason five questions via email. Here are their responses.
1. In brief, what is the purpose of RecoVend? Why do you see a need for this?
Education is a broken industry right now, but K-20 still spends $400 billion on products and services every year. RecoVend solves a crucial issue in education — the information gap that exists between prospective users of products and services, and the vendors providing them. Previously, to try to get unbiased information, people had to Google Search, or shout out into fractured communities on social media platforms and hope to get a response. RecoVend acts as a comprehensive, aggregated resource, pairing information from and about vendors with dynamic peer recommendations. Where it used to take upwards of 18 months to make a decision because of “committee hell,” now educators can gather and share in depth information in minutes, saving time and helping schools make more informed decisions.
2. On your about page, you cite some percentages and data regarding how much time higher ed folks spend searching for information, etc. [I.e., we spend 30 percent of our time searching for information we need to do our jobs.] Where did you come up with those numbers?
We found the initial claims in a 2001 white paper by IDC, a global market intelligence and advisory firm. The author of that study followed up in a 2004 article that confirmed the numbers found in the IDC study, and another white paper from Google in 2010 that also backs up the claims. And many of those in higher ed are knowledge workers, who are already spread thin with not enough resources to go around.
3. How do you plan to get the word out about RecoVend?
We’re still very much in the early stages of RecoVend, so we’re still testing out a bunch of different features. Several of these are highly social, collaborative features that will improve information sharing and workflow within departments and institutions, and save so much time and money. While these are still being developed and tested, we want to reach out to the insightful thought leaders of the HigherEd community that are constantly pushing the envelope. That’s why we want to invite your readers to join us at RecoVend, and share their knowledge, their experience and their expertise with peers at institutions across the country, so that together we can all help change education for the better. Once we have more meaningful content on the site, we’re hoping to partner with professional associations within HigherEd, offering the free resources at RecoVend to their members, and helping us empower every person at every level of an institution to have a voice.
4. How do you think consultants and other third-party vendors to higher ed will respond to your approach? Why?
We’ve already gotten great feedback from consultants and vendor clients that are under agreement to be a part of the RecoVend platform, and load their content up onto the site. While we can’t reveal a list yet since the contracts are still being finalized, they represent roughly $50 million of annual sales to the market. We are a resource for every type of service provider — from an established consulting firm, to a new EdTech startup looking for beta testers. We’re helping them gain exposure and allowing their biggest advocates, the users, to evangelize their favorite brands or products – this also helps the vendors better understand and address any negative feedback, since it’s aggregated publicly (albeit under pseudonym) for the first time, not just voiced behind closed doors. Ultimately we want to help promote the best products and services in the industry, and share best practices for implementation.
5. How can people sign up for RecoVend?
It’s super easy, and free — just go to www.RecoVend.com and click “sign up.” Make sure you use your .edu address so we can verify that you’re a member of the education community. During our quick registration process, we create a username for you to post under, so that we are able to provide some level of privacy to our users so they can feel comfortable voicing their opinions, even if they aren’t popular in their own organization. You’ll need to quickly confirm your email, and then you can search for products or services based on name, product category (think: CRM, LMS) or tags provided by the vendors and your peers. You can also add reviews and ratings for products you’ve used in the past, and ones you’re using now that can be shared with your peers across institutions.