Matthew Jordan of EduVault
Budding entrepreneur Matthew Jordan tells us all about EduVault, a review site comparing education technology products and talks life as a young entrepreneur...
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Eduvault is a comparison and review website for education technology products. We want to empower schools to make good technology decisions. To do this, we have created a space where they can go to find independent information about the products available and share their experiences with other schools.
What did you do before you started this business?
I come from a sales background. I have previously worked for education technology vendors helping them sell to schools and government and more recently I have been providing consultancy services to companies looking to work closer with schools.
What inspired you to start up?
Over the last few years the number of products in the ‘EdTech’ space has exploded. It astounded me, like it did schools, that when it came to finding out if a product is suitable their only options were to ask the people selling the product or to try and find a school that was already using it. This meant that schools were either getting biased opinions from the sales people or were just hearing about the same old tired products from the schools around them.
Seeing great new products unable to get the recognition they deserved and seeing schools wasting money on unsuitable products I felt we could come up with a better way, one which they were familiar with. When people look to research insurance products or holidays or new TV’s they go online compare features, check prices and read reviews. It seems crazy they can’t do that for education technology products – so we made it.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We are a website that provides free, unbiased information to help schools buy the right things for them.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
So far we have sought advice from anyone and everyone who can give it. I strongly believe that a good feedback loop will ensure that we are continually growing inline with what our users need. We constantly speak with schools and vendors from all over the world to make sure we are on the right track. For the business as a whole we get incredible advice and support from people right here in the North East. I have had help from Campus North, The Princes Trust, Think Digital and Ghost White to name a few. In addition the guys at Smart Money People who have grown a similar company targeted banking, and Northstar Ventures, a North East Venture Capital firm, have been so generous with their time and have been happy to share their vast knowledge and experience which has helped immensely.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Finance is always the biggest barrier to starting something like this. I made a decision to do this a few years ago and decided to move to ad hoc consultancy to supplement the project. This meant a drop in pay initially but a big gain in the amount of time I could dedicate. Earlier this year we received initial seed funding so that coupled with a very supportive partner has helped finance the company and gets us going.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I initially started work on this idea over 12 months ago and we finally launched in September this year following successful trial period over the summer. The greatest achievement so far is seeing an idea from my head become an actionable tool which people are using. Whenever schools tell me of their experience with it and how it has helped them, it feels like such a great achievement. That being said, this is just the start of the journey and I cannot wait to hear from users benefiting from technology they have bought because of our site.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Having worked within Education for a long time you begin to learn that the IT challenges faced by schools are completely different to those faced by corporate businesses. Technology for businesses is something that is covered heavily. We are different because we focus exclusively on education. We believe this is a tool that would especially benefit schools at a time of shrinking budgets. We hope that with a strong community of schools able to advise others that we can have the largest database of Education specific technology.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It is a liberating yet frightening experience. Whilst working within companies I always thought it would be nice to not have to work within someone else’s parameters. You get a lot of freedom to be creative and drive the company in whatever direction you want, and you can make real changes quickly. It is a big transition though. I have had to work extra hard on my organisation and self-motivation in order to constantly be improving and pushing myself. I am not sure being your own boss would suit everyone but I think everyone should try it because if it is for you then there’s nothing better!
Where do you see your business in five years time?
Eduvault is still in its infancy so the next five years are going to be an incredible journey. We hope at the end of these years Eduvault will be regarded as the go-to authority for education technology. A place schools can trust will have their best interests at heart and a place that vendors know will provide a more knowledgeable market insight than anyone else. As an organisation I hope we will be in a position to create a good number of jobs in the North East and that local people will be banging on our door to join us for the journey onwards.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do it. There is never the perfect time to start a company. You can always wait for the right movement in the market, the right situation in your personal life, the perfect idea. These are all variables that may never align. I am a big believer that as long as you are prepared to put in the work and have a thirst to learn as you go then you can achieve great things. Oh and get good people around you, it helps inspire you and keeps your head up when it gets tough!