Saving edshelf with Crowdfunding

When I started edshelf, I didn’t want to take money from educators. I believed - and still believe - that it is possible to have an ethical and self-sustaining business by charging edtech companies instead [1].

So it was with mixed feelings that I launched edshelf’s Kickstarter Campaign.

I didn’t want to ask educators for money, but the incredible outpouring of support from the #saveedshelf convinced me that I needed to try this last-ditch effort. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t.

The Effect of #saveedshelf

Many have asked how the #saveedshelf campaign was going to help. Was it going to bring renewed interest from investors? From acquirers? From benefactors? From something else? Honestly, I wasn’t sure.

Then the emails and calls poured in. No, not from investors. But from lots and lots of brilliant people looking for ways to help. Some were fellow edtech entrepreneurs with partnership possibilities. Some were similar services with acquisition offers. Some were educators with lots of helpful suggestions.

Most, by far, were companies interested in edshelf’s assets - specifically, the email addresses of edshelf’s members. I turned down those offers right away. No price will make me give up edshelf’s members like that.

The Crowdfunding Possibility

Of all the emails, the crowdfunding suggestions stuck with me. I was originally advised by people at the popular crowdfunding sites that this wouldn’t work for edshelf. The amount that I calculated I would need to raise in order to remain competitive in this market was too high. Competitors were well-funded and had large teams. To stay relevant, I thought I would need at least a small team.

But the suggestion was still stuck. It was in my head like “Let It Go” from Frozen. So, like, a lot.

Then I thought: what if I “rebooted” edshelf? What if I started over and, knowing what I know now, built edshelf the way it should have been built? Meaning: make it revenue-generating and self-sustainable from Day One. Make it able to sustain just me, then grow from there, slowly and steadily?

Except for one huge benefit: I’m not really starting over. I’m starting with a really passionate membership of edtech early adopters and a set of features that they’ve grown to love. So it’s like starting over at Day Seven.

With that plan in mind, I calculated how much I would need to get edshelf to self-sustainability. $30k. Compared to how much of my own savings I’ve already invested in the last 2.5 years, it’s a small number. But I think it’s a realistic number. And now I can’t wait to set the plan in motion and get edshelf back on track!

I Need Your Help

If you’ve enjoyed edshelf’s newsletters, collections, and search capabilities - and look forward to evolved versions of each - please consider supporting edshelf’s Kickstarter campaign. Even a small donation would mean a lot. And more than anything else, please share the campaign with your colleagues, friends, and neighbors.

Educators deserve good tools. Together we can make sure educators are always equipped with them.

Thank you so much!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

[1] One plan is to offer edtech companies various ways to promote themselves on edshelf within approved channels. I’ve already been listing some as sponsors of the weekly newsletter and will continue that. In terms of the business, I don’t care to squeeze out every dollar I can by putting deceitful advertising everywhere; that’s not why I started this business. I believe I can sustain edshelf using only ethical advertising channels. (i.e. Search results will NEVER be influenced by paid advertisers. Like Google, I may place sponsored listings that are visually separate from the search results.)

edshelf Weekly - Digital Storytelling Tools

Yes, edshelf is still around for at least another 30 days! With your help, perhaps it can be around even longer. Please share the edshelf Kickstarter campaign with your colleagues and PLNs. Thank you so much!

Storytelling is an important art for both students and working professionals. Give your students the power to craft a story as a way to learn a topic, think critically, increase literacy skills, and express their creativity.

  • Rory’s Story Cubes - Shake nine virtual cubes for story prompts. Try using all nine prompts for a fun challenge!
  • Shadow Puppet Edu - A kid-friendly project-based learning and digital storytelling app with Common Core activity ideas too.
  • Plotagon - Create a 3D animated story by writing in a movie script format. Characters come with a library of animated actions.
  • 30hands - This slide-based storytelling app also works as a presentation creator and allows images, videos, and audio.
  • Storytelling Alice - A PC-based application that teaches students (particularly girls) programming through creating 3D animated movies.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

  • Authors R Us - Curated by the digital learning specialists The Tech Chicks.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

Want a fresh copy of the edshelf Weekly newsletter in your inbox too? Sign up with edshelf today!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf Weekly - Teacher-Created Edtech Tools

The #saveedshelf campaign has been incredible. I will have an announcement about it in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Good edtech companies make an effort to talk to and understand the world of an educator. Who better to bridge that gap than educators-turned-entrepreneurs themselves? Here are some products created by teachers.

  • TweechMe - Learn how to expand your PLN on Twitter using lessons provided by this app.
  • Mathalicious - Use real-world examples, like buying pizza, to teach your students critical math skills.
  • FluencyFinder - Assess and track a student’s word-per-minute reading fluency easily with this app.
  • QuizSlides - Create multiple choice formative or summative assessments from PowerPoint or PDF files.
  • SmarterCookie - Coach teachers using video with this professional development platform.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

  • TFA Alumni - A collection of edtech products created by Teach For America alumni.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf


Coming to the decision to close edshelf was a decision I stubbornly put off to the absolute last minute. Two and a half years of my life were poured into researching, building, evolving, measuring, marketing, and pushing it forward. Clicking on the “Send” button for edshelf’s shut down announcement was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I felt I let my members down, so I braced myself for a torrent of angry emails. Instead, I received a flood of supportive replies. Whew! Then a flood of supportive tweets, such as:

I took solace in the fact that these were another sign of product validation. There’s nothing quite like knowing something you’ve made is useful and liked by other people.

Then something curious happened. William Jenkins published a thoughtful article that concluded with support for Alicia Leonard's call to #saveedshelf.

And like that, this little hashtag started gaining momentum. I saw it appearing up and down my Twitter feed. Wow. WOW. WOW!

I am truly humbled. And in awe. And am eternally grateful.

How did I get so lucky to have this hashtag campaign rise up in support of my venture? I know a lot of edtech entrepreneurs who have poured as much of themselves into their startups as I. They care just as much as I do. And many of them had to shut down their businesses too. Why didn’t they get a hashtag campaign to save their companies?

I’ve been told that it was my personal farewell email that triggered many to offer their support. My startup journey is no different than any other entrepreneur. The vast majority of businesses fail. But I think educators empathized with the fact that I poured my heart, soul, and personal savings into edshelf. That is no different than teachers who open their hearts, souls, and wallets for their students every day.

So is this campaign working?

My inbox is full and my calendar is packed full of calls and meetings. Since many of these are still ongoing, I’m afraid I can’t share any specifics right now. Sorry about that. What I can say is, I’m really excited! I will have something more substantial to announce soon.

Thank you all so much for your kindness, generosity, and support. It’s amazing acts like these that make all the sacrifices of an entrepreneur worth it.

I wish I could reach out and give each and every one of you the same kind of joy you’re giving me right now. You are amazing. Thank you for supporting this hashtag. Thank you for your supportive blog posts. Thank you for your supportive emails. Thank you!

And also, if there is another edtech product that you also really love and don’t want to see go away, consider leaving a kind review for them on edshelf so other educators can support them too :)

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf Weekly - Tools to Expand Your Personal Learning Network

Even with the impending shut down of edshelf, I apparently can’t stop sending these weekly emails. The amazing #saveedshelf campaign still astonishes me, so how can I not write one more? (And thank you again everyone for your generous support!)

Interested in expanding your Personal Learning Network over social media? Here are some tools to make you a social media pro.

  • HootSuite - Read and schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and WordPress using this social media manager.
  • tagboard - See all posts from across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Vine that include a specific #hashtag.
  • Feedly - Follow your favorite bloggers and see all of their latest posts using this handy free website.
  • Meetup - Look for local meet ups of educators and establish in-person connections. Or create a meet up of your own.
  • Google Voice - Set up an alternate phone number that can email, text, and ring you on your own phone.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

  • PLE & PLN - Curated by ESL teacher Mª Jesús García San Martín.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf Weekly - Useful Edtech Tools You May Not Know

Since I announced that edshelf is shutting down, I wasn’t going to send any more weekly emails. But the amazing generosity of the #saveedshelf campaign motivated me (WOW, and how!) to write one more.

Here is a list of educational tools you may not have heard of, but may be useful when assembling your classroom curriculum.

  • Project Gutenberg - A library of over 45,000 free ebooks in various formats, like EPUB, Kindle, HTML, and plain text.
  • TinEye - In this reverse image search engine, you submit an image to find where it came from, high resolution versions, and more.
  • Write-on Video - Annotate videos or create slideshows of pictures and text, then share your animated lessons or digital stories.
  • Field Trip - A free GPS-aware app from Google that alerts with info you as walk near places of interest. Great for traveling!
  • Easy Portfolio - Students and teachers can keep a digital portfolio of photos, videos, notes and other documents with this app.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf to shut down

It deeply saddens me to say this. edshelf will be shutting down on July 25.

We weren’t able to build edshelf into a sustainable business and the costs of running our service have depleted the company’s and our personal savings. We looked into everything we could to keep edshelf going, but unfortunately none of them worked out. We failed you, and we are truly sorry.

Thank you so much for your generous support. It was all the kind messages, tweets, and emails about edshelf that kept us going. I saved every single one and often looked back at them to remind me of why I was doing all of this. I know I can speak for my team when I say we all are eternally grateful for your kindness and help.

It was an honor to have been able to serve you and the education community. Educators everywhere give so much of themselves to help our future generations, and I hope that in some small way, we were able to make your lives a little bit easier.

July 25th will be the last day for edshelf to remain online. I am deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and will do whatever I can to ease the transition for you. If you would like any of your collections exported from edshelf, please let me know. I can export them as a bookmarks file that you can import into your browser or favorite bookmarking service, such as:

And if you are still on the hunt for great edtech tools, here are some fantastic resources you can use:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making our world a better place. Education is the foundation of society and your hard work is what enlightens and brightens future generations. Thank you.

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf Weekly - Note Taking Apps

Need a way to take notes easily and quickly? For those lucky enough to be attending the ISTE 2014 conference right now, perhaps one of these mobile apps can help, though anyone could always use handy note-taking app.

  • Evernote - You’ve no doubt heard of this app by now: take notes via text, photos, or voice, then view them on any device.
  • Notability - Here’s a powerful alternative to Evernote with similar features, plus handwriting recognition and PDF annotation.
  • Penultimate - If you want to stay in the Evernote family, this app turns your iPad into a digital drawing pad and syncs with Evernote.
  • Google Keep - Or if you want to stay in the Google family, this Android and Chromebook app has similar features to Evernote.
  • AudioNote - This iOS and Android app lets you take notes (text or drawings) and sync them with audio for dynamic notes.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

Want a fresh copy of the edshelf Weekly newsletter in your inbox too? Sign up with edshelf today!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf Weekly - Educational Web-based Games to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Last week, we highlighted a set of teacher-approved iOS apps that can help stave off summer learning loss. However, not everyone has an iOS device at home. So here are some engaging and educational web-based games to consider.

NOTE: Most of these require the Adobe Flash browser plugin.

  • Skoolbo - An immersive world of games for elementary school students to learn reading & math. Sign up before June 30th for Forever Free pricing.
  • FunBrain - One of the more popular online resources of free educational games and activities for preschool to grade 8 students.
  • Edheads - For math and science practice, this free resource includes games on Simple Machines, Virtual Knee Surgery, and more.
  • Reading Eggs - From the Study Island team, this site also offers research-backed educational games for preschool to grade 7 students.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

Want a fresh copy of the edshelf Weekly newsletter in your inbox too? Sign up with edshelf today!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

edshelf Weekly - iOS Apps to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is fast approaching. That means school will be out and summer learning loss will become a worry. One way to curb those concerns is with engaging and educational games, like this set of teacher-approved iOS apps.

  • Mahjong Chem - Have fun reinforcing your chemistry knowledge in the form of addictive Mahjong games created by Stetson University.
  • Mathmateer - Launch a rocket into space and practice your skills in addition, multiplication, fractions, money, time, shapes, and more.
  • Endless Reader - Learn the sounds of letters with sight words, in a manner that may make you chuckle and grin.
  • Deep Sea Duel - Created by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, play against Okta to collect cards with a specified sum.
  • Earth School - Play 18 different mini games that cover topics like the Big Bang, planet generation, the beginnings of life, and more.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools created by members like you.

Enjoy these great tools for educators!

Want a fresh copy of the edshelf Weekly newsletter in your inbox too? Sign up with edshelf today!

- Mike Lee, Co-founder of edshelf

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