In the era of on demand data and increasing mobile use, the e-learning industry is slow to react effectively to this new era. James Eggers and I, Daniel Hobbs started our small start up with the aim of enhancing the studying experience. We found that there are lots of sites that offer lots data and resources but often overload the student with information, adding no value to the studying process.
With this gap in the market, we focused on the old but relevant proverb “Fail to prepare, Prepare to Fail”. Surely, if we allowed the student to prepare effectively we would create an efficient and more rewarding studying experience. Essentially, we wanted to create a manageable, centralised system for past exam material that allows students to find past questions and solutions quickly and efficiently thus creating a “better” prepared student.
Since our prototype went live in 2011/12 we have attracted just over 100,000 users to the site. However, it was only in Autumn 2015 when we began to create a business structure around the website. Currently “BetterExaminations” is deployed in schools around Ireland and used by students who purchase premium features. This includes a search engine that allows them to find topic based questions such as enzymes in Biology. However, we feel that this is just the beginning and hope to expand into the third level industry with “BetterExaminations University” that builds on our second level model for exam papers.
From September 2015 to February 2016 alone, we have attracted over 30,000 users to BetterExaminations. I feel that this was due to three specific tactics that we took, tactics that can be applicable to any start up in the technology realm.
- A team that fits.
Having a small team of varying talents and skills is integral in how we operate as a business. James handles the entire technology and software aspects of our business. He has been coding since before it was mainstream and is the vital asset of BetterExaminations. Myself, on the other hand, provide the business feature of our team. It is important to achieve a balance in your team between technical and business mind sets. If a team is too technical, it can lack a market viewpoint of the product. If a team is too business focused, it can loses the ability to think about the plausibility of how the product works. We have found it hugely beneficial by having two different perspectives on how we operate.
- Touchpoints, Touchpoints, Touchpoints!
A huge part of our promotions and marketing is creating as many links to our customers as possible. It is thought that too many touchpoints can in fact be negative to a business but from a start up perspective we have found that this is the best way to inform your market with your brand name and create awareness of what you offer.
When deciding what touchpoint to invest in, it is important to analyse who your customer is and where they are active. For example, our customers are second level students and schools. Therefore, it would be useless to advertise on newspapers. Instead, we focused on exhibiting at popular student events and national school meetings. We also directly contacted anyone who mentioned examinations on Twitter in a humorous way which helped us to control our brand image and how we portray our company to students.
- First impressions count.
James and I work together combining the tech and business perspectives respectively. We’ve noticed, through our own mistakes, that releasing software features unfinished or not up to working standard can be negative for your image. On one occasion we released a feature early and received some complaints that we had to deal with. Since then, we’ve ensured that each release is working flawlessly. We feel that when new customers use the software for the first time and experience its speed and efficiency, it will create a loyalty and demonstrate quality in our company.
In March 2016, we were accepted into the Trinity College Dublin “LaunchBox” programme, which is in association with Blackstone’s “LaunchPad’. This is an opportunity to accelerate our growth through the use of a dedicated on-campus workspace, investment and expert advice. It’s an experience that we are excited to begin and a chance to expand into markets that will provide new customers to help our venture grow.
By Daniel Hobbs (@DannyKEHobbs)
Guest blogger: Daniel Hobbs is an undergraduate in Business, Economic and Social Studies (BESS) in Trinity College Dublin and co-founder of BetterExaminations alongside James Eggers.