You may have heard this morning it was announced by Satya Nadella that Flipgrid and Microsoft have joined forces! This is big news for so many reasons. The biggest reason is that the dream of Charlie Miller, Jim Leslie, and the whole Flipgrid team has now been reached. What is that dream you ask?
FLIPGRID is FREE for EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes you heard it correctly, Flipgrid's paid subscription that cost $65 per year, will now be FREE. Flipgrid has had a simple mission (and it goes well with their simple to use product) to empower ALL student's voices. I have heard numerous times from various members of the team that they really hated charging for a product designed to amplify student voice. They have felt in order to amplify student voice, they needed to insure that meant ALL students.
The cold hard reality though is this isn't really a sustainable idea when you consider the incredible costs involved with video hosting and maintaining a product that absolutely exploded over the last 14 - 16 months. As is the case for all edtech products, the market is difficult to navigate. This is a thing of beauty in my opinion and I will explain in more detail here.
My introduction to Flipgrid came via free accounts that were provided to all MIE Experts. So the partnership with Flipgrid and Microsoft has been strong for long before many of us were using it. My first grid was set up to serve as a way to get to know other MIE Experts since I still hadn't met many of the great educators that are a part of that program.
Beyond a long relationship between the two companies is a core set of common values shared by both groups. Empowering ALL students to have a voice is central to both companies. Listen to Charlie, Joey, or anyone from the Flipgrid team and you can't help but recognize this is much more than a cute tag line. Listen to Anthony Salcito or Mike Tholfsen talk to a group of educators about Learning Tools, or any of the other incredible accessibility tools and you can't help believe that this huge mega company really has a purpose driven approach to business these days. I have long been skeptical of the big fish and their foray into the education sector, but I have begun to cool my jets on the idea that their only goal is to get their claws into student users as early as possible. At the end of the day, both groups have to look at their bottom line, but just as Daniel Pink discusses in his book Drive, more and more companies are realizing that a purpose driven approach is vital to keep workers engaged and to keep users invested in their products.
So you have a group like Flipgrid who have watched their product absolutely explode, and that product is reliant on video hosting, which is crazy expensive to maintain. And then you have Microsoft with data centers all over the world, who is also heavily invested in cloud operations. You have Flipgrid who has captured lightning in a bottle by actively engaging with users and building the #FlipgridFever community. I learned through my first day using and tweeting about Flipgrid that they were going to be active in engaging with users. Any edtech product would pay good money to get such a strong connection with education users. And then you have Microsoft who is aggressively working to make headway into that same segment of educators and you begin to see many of the reasons why this is a win for both sides.
While Flipgrid has been doing a great job of raising funds and making itself sustainable, the massive, rapid growth makes it very challenging to make things Free for everyone. Microsoft has the resources and backbone to make that happen. Microsoft has been working hard to connect with educators and listen to their needs and wants, but the shear size if their organization makes it difficult. When key needs meet key solutions for both sides, the path to today makes so much sense.
Call me naive, but I have been drinking the kool-aid for about a year and a half now, and really believe both companies want to make education a better experience for students. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, I have been able to attend various events and have gotten to hear key players in Microsoft talk about goals and desires. We know they want to make money, but they are working too hard to make needed products available to students. Those same products are having a positive impact on students.
Microsoft helped grow a segment of the Flipgrid user base by sharing information with their Educator community back in 2015, and the two have been working together well before then. The key is that Microsoft recognized a value in what Flipgrid offered before Flipgrid became the sensation we see today. At the end of the day, Microsoft recognizes that giving ALL students a voice is vital to their development and their ability to sustain the workforce that Microsoft and other companies need. Microsoft recognizes that this tool and the educators that are using it, are important. At the end of the day, both groups have the same desire. This is a perfect blend of two groups working toward the same end. For Flipgrid, a merger with Microsoft really was the perfect solution to continuing to grow and to reach all students. And the best part for all of us, is that the Flipgrid team is still on board and ready to continue working toward the real goal, and Microsoft gives them that stability to do so and to do even more amazing things that are yet to come. I am excited to see what is yet to come with these two powerhouses working together.