Goodbye Google, Hello New Nonprofit: The Motivation Behind a Dramatic Career Shift

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September 28, 2011; Source: Washington Post | Technology executive Prasad Ram relays the story in a recent post on The Washington Post’s Innovations blog about the surprise that he gave to his wife and son when he broke the news that he intended to leave Google to start his own nonprofit. Ram recalled that at the time his then fourteen-year-old son offered the helpful intervention, “Dad, but isn’t being a parent like running a nonprofit?” In addition to the surprise that he gave to his family members, Ram highlights how on the road to opening Ednovo, an educational technology nonprofit based in Silicon Valley, he encountered skepticism from fellow venture capitalists, but in the process he also refined his own concept of how he wanted to work in what he calls the “very very interesting space” of education. 

Based on the Post’s story, it is clear that Ram has a gift for scientific thinking, he created the open software platform Gooru, but he also has an appreciation for the challenge, familiar to many nonprofit leaders, of getting as many tools into the hands of as many people as possible. “Education technology, to me, is not first about technology. It’s about design” Ram told the Post. He added, “Every technology we want our students and teachers to use — guess what? They’re already using it. They’re just not using it for learning.” 

Ultimately the approach that Ram decided to take was how to amplify things already taking place in education not how to re-create them, which is not a common mindset in Silicon Valley. He explained to the Post, “In the grand scheme of things, if you want to move the needle you have to move the needle with 7 billion people working with you. Because education is such a local thing.”

Despite the resistance from “the investor class,” Ram ultimately did find a couple of initial financial supporters and was able to lure a software engineer to the organization with the promise of using his code at a for-profit entity. Now up and running, Ednovo’s mission is to make high quality education accessible and free to the world’s one billion students within three years-certainly an ambitious goal.