Education business Eduvault has entered this year’s If We Can You Can competition. Founder Matthew Jordan talks to BQ about starting a business and plans for the future.
What did you do before setting up your business?
I come from a sales background. Prior to setting up Eduvault I had worked with a number of Education Technology companies to help them sell to schools and local authorities more effectively.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I grew increasingly frustrated seeing schools waste their limited budgets on products that proved to not be fit for purpose. After speaking to schools about this it became clear that it was due to a lack of independent information. The people buying the products were used to comparing products when buying insurance, holidays, TVs etc, but incredibly they could only find out about school IT systems by going to a trade show or ringing the company who made the product.
What makes this business different?
We aim to provide independent information to schools free of charge. What really separates us from other companies who provide information is two-fold. Firstly, we don’t have sponsors who fund us, this makes sure we can be impartial at all times. Secondly, we focus specifically on products education. Given my background I know how different the requirements of schools are to other markets.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
We have recently launched our platform and we believe it can help schools. Having developed and built the company in the North East we want to grow it to then in turn create jobs in the North East. If We Can You Can is a great opportunity to present what good ideas are coming out of the North East and we believe we are one of those. As our site is driven by user content I believe that in partnership with IWCYC we can grow and make Eduvault an even more valuable tool for all schools.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
In three years time I would like to see Eduvault as the ‘go to’ standard for whether an EdTech product is good or not. We want product vendors to be boasting about how good their score is on the site and schools to be boasting about how great the technology they are using is. We want to have expanded our team with an office in Newcastle and users across three continents.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
I initially started on this idea over 12 months ago, we finally launched September 11th this year following successful BETA testing over the Summer. Seeing my scrappy scrawlings of what the site would look like and do turn into an actionable tool which users are telling me they have been waiting years for is immensely rewarding. Each day becomes more rewarding than the last – seeing users returning to the site to re-use the tools, seeing users offer advice to others via their reviews is great and I cannot wait until a few months time when we hear about users enjoying the technology they chose because of our site.
What has been your biggest challenge?
We have faced a number of challenges so far; gaining investment to set up, understanding creating a business, creating a company vision and culture, building a product and attracting users to the website however our biggest challenge has been changing the ethos of suppliers to Education Technology. There have been some visionary EdTech start-ups who have been on-board with our vision from day one however for the most part what we are wanting to do is so different from the way business has been done previously that they are sceptical. Many vendors believe that by making information available to users independently and free of charge they lose control of the sale. And they do. We want to give the power back to the buyers instead of the sellers. This is disruptive to the market however by convincing vendors to believe in the strength of their product and to let that do the talking we are slowly winning over the laggards and hopefully increasing the standard of products on the market.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
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 schools need. I have gained foundation level business advice from The Princes Trust. Industry feedback from our users, schools, local authorities and companies I have worked with previously. Product advice from family friends our investors, Northstar Ventures and all-round help from the great guys at ‘Smart Money People’ who have grown a similar company targeted at the banking world.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
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, which may never align. I am a big believer in putting in the work to learn as you go along. Entrepreneurialism isn’t right for everyone but if you don’t try you never know. Any lessons you learn from trying will serve you well in all walks of life afterwards. Oh, and get good people around you, it helps you keep your head up when its tough!