James and his co-founder Omair love their jobs. They bootstrapped training platform Synap after meeting at University, and it’s all snowballed from there…
Tell us all about your business, in 100 words or less…
Synap is an intelligent online training platform, using machine learning and memory science to help people learn more in less time. We break training down into engaging, 5-10 minute chunks which people can practice anytime, and use data on what they’re doing well versus what they’re not doing so well to create a personalised learning plan just for them.
For companies, this enables them to deliver effective, impactful and auditable training at scale. For employees and students, it makes training much more engaging and manageable.
And how would you explain it to your Grandma?
Synap helps people to learn more in less time, by breaking down training into short chunks, and letting them practice anytime.
Where did the idea come from?
My co-founder and I were medical students at Leeds University, and were looking for a more effective, engaging way to study for our own exams. We stumbled across various teaching methods such as spaced repetition and active learning, which we found to be really helpful. The problem was that they were difficult to put into practice regularly, so we built Synap as an intuitive, easy-to-use platform that we would want to use ourselves.
What motivated you to start your own business?
It kind of snowballed on us! We created Synap as a fun project to help ourselves and our colleagues study more effectively. Over time that grew from a side-project into something that was being used by people across the country. Upon graduating a few months ago, we made the decision to work on the company full time and haven’t looked back.
Have you raised finance so far? If so, how?
Initially, we were completely bootstrapped. Omair and I built the website and app, and the vast majority of our marketing has always been word of mouth. As Synap began to grow, we were supported by grants from Jisc and an enterprise scholarship from Leeds University, and later raised £180,000 via Crowdcube.
What are your most and least favourite parts of your job?
I love all of my job. I think my favourite bit would be meeting clients as I enjoy seeing where our platform can add value in different industries.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor or a programmer.
How did it feel to be crowned one of TechNorth’s Northern Stars?
Great! My co-founder and I had only graduated a few months previously so we hadn’t been running Synap ‘full time’ for very long. To get an award such as Northern Stars at that stage was a huge win for us.
Which of the prizes do you think will be of most value to you and your business?
We had the opportunity to exhibit at TechCrunch Disrupt a few months ago which was a great experience. In addition, the TechNorth team are setting up a bunch of opportunities for us to get in front of potential clients and investors.
What’s next for you, and where do you see your business in a year?
2018 is going to be an incredibly exciting year for Synap. We’ve been running the company for about three years but this is the first time we’ve been able to do so full time. We’re looking forward to working with more clients to improve their training processes.