Developed in Scotland, installed worldwide. Marcus Fields and Robbie Beattie launched School Cloud Systems when they were aged just 16. Today, they're selling their services across the globe. BQ caught up with them to find out how they made it happen...
What does your company do?
We provide online software to over 2,000 schools to help them arrange their parents’ evenings and manage the booking of rooms/resources.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
School Cloud Systems was launched in 2006 by school pupils Marcus Fields and Robbie Beattie aged just 16.
They developed an online system in their free time for booking rooms/resources at their school after discovering teachers were booking IT rooms using paper diaries.
Often rooms were double booked – a waste of teaching time for a class of 30 children. Their school quickly snapped it up and the business was born.
The second product, Parents Evening System, allows parents to book appointments for parents’ evenings online.
Traditionally pupils request appointments with teachers at the start of lessons or letters are sent home with parents hoping the reply slip wasn’t forgotten at the bottom of schoolbags.
How long has the company been exporting?
We have been exporting our products to international British and American schools for 7 years. Last year we started exporting to US schools.
What do you currently export, and where to?
Our products are web based which means they can be accessed from any internet connected device. However our main export opportunity is the US market.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Our Parents Evening System continues to be a great success in the UK. We identified that with some cultural terminology changes we could also start helping American Schools with their parent teacher conferences.
We spent about six months making these cultural changes in the application and started marketing the product in the US in July 2015.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
Identifying a potential export opportunity can be relatively easy. We have found that understanding the cultural differences required for the selling approach, product fit and marketing is the challenging part!
And the most challenging part?
Identifying the decision maker in a new market has been our biggest challenge. However by visiting Educational Technology trade shows, we have not only confirmed an exporting opportunity exists but also know the correct US school staff to contact.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
Luckily through our 6 month product development we identified the small changes in terminology required for the US market to understand our product.
This meant an alternate brand was required for the US market and hence new marketing material and a new website.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We have worked with SDI (Scottish Development International) since 2015. They have provided financial support for visiting international trade shows. Without their support, we wouldn’t be so confident in our international potential.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
We would definitely recommend visiting the market in person and speaking face to face with your potential customers.
Without this in person interaction you cannot learn the subtle cultural changes you made need for your product to fit the market.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
We’re just getting started with our international expansion and will continue to target US schools. The US is seeing a big interest in developing their schools at the moment so hopefully in five years we have a substantial US client base and can help those schools with new and innovative products.
Exporting and international trade remain high on the Scottish Government’s economic growth agenda and the Scottish Export Awards, in association with Scottish Enterprise, are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.
To book your ticket for the awards, click here.