Friday, 14 August 2020

Creating a learning platform for children - Jack Francis (MSc Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics) and Tom Willetts (MSc Pyschology)

UoB students Jack Francis (MSc Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robots) and Tom Willetts have created an online platform which generates maths questions to help school children learn. We caught up with Jack to find out more about his new company Leaarn.

We provide unlimited custom maths resources for teachers, parents, and tutors, via our question generators. The generators create a worksheet containing questions chosen by the user, which is supplied to them as a PDF. All questions generated are designed from the English National Curriculum for Maths, and we currently cover the entirety of KS1 and KS2, with plans to make question generators for senior schools as well.

 I came up with this business idea because I remembered when I undertook any maths exam in school, I always ran out of resources to practice on. The teachers often didn't have enough resources, and couldn't find more. This led me to realise that  my business partner and I could develop a system whereby a teacher could create as many worksheets as they needed, each with unique questions.

Using our knowledge of programming we were able to develop Leaarn, which can create a limitless number of unique worksheets.

We first began developing Leaarn about 6 months ago, and have got our product ready for market. We had advice from the B-Enterprising Start-Up manager Mohammed Ali which was motivating and led us in the correct direction for marketing our product. Further, the informal advice sessions have been helpful, as it let us get knowledge from other founders within the University, as well as share what we have learnt also.

The Start-up fund has also been very helpful, as it meant we did not have to worry about the setup costs for our business. These were costs such as art, hosting, as well as a promotional article advertising Leaarn

Starting our business has given my business partner and I creative freedom in how we go forward. It also gives us both the opportunity to be our own boss, as well as knowing that we can directly have a positive impact in boosting children's education. 

We (unknowingly) entered at the worst time for our market, as teachers are not looking for maths resources over the summer. As such we still have uncertainty in the success we will see when it gets closer to the beginning of the school year. That being said, no matter how things go in September (although we are sure it will go well!) we have both learnt so many new skills which are directly applicable for future job applications. I wish I understood how to do marketing, and how difficult it can be to connect your customers. For both my business partner and I, it has not come naturally to say the least. However, despite the uphill struggle it has been, we've been getting the hang of it.

To give advice on this, I would say make sure to determine where your target market is located, as this is key in being able to connect with them. If you don't, you risk wasting both your time and money with little return on your investment. We developed our product relatively quickly, and so we were expecting customers to pour in once it was finished. Unsurprisingly, this was not the case, which we learnt fairly quickly. It is important to not rush into your marketing, and to make sure you understand your market, and your own company first.

It has been a tough journey, but a very worthwhile one. Good luck to anyone who is thinking of starting their own business, its really worth it!

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