Have you got an edtech idea that could solve a sector problem or enhance the student experience? We won funding and support for our idea, and you could too…
Hands up if you fell into a university course without really knowing if it was the one for you?
It’s more common than you might think. Personally, I had no idea what to study, and after considering law, psychology, and criminology, I ended up studying computer science at Bangor University in 2012 (having gone through clearing).
During my studies, I witnessed one of my closest friends falling out of love with his course, and eventually dropping out entirely. After speaking with him it was clear he had chosen his course simply because he had studied it at A-level, and wasn’t sure what else to pick. (Did you know that recent Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data shows that, in 2016, more than 29,000 full time students (7.4% of the intake) were no longer in higher education after 12 months?)
Two years later, I was in my last year at university, and amongst exams, dissertations, sports commitments, and the usual turbulent university lifestyle, I started the dreaded procedure of job hunting. After numerous interviews, and a handful of offers, I did a complete turnaround and decided I wanted to start my own company.
After a short while I met my now co-founder Chris Worsey, and, based on our experiences at university, we decided to set up a business tackling the lack of engagement in higher education career advice - something we were both passionate about.
Chris has a background in politics and chairing a commission on youth unemployment, which gave him some fantastic insights into the sector we were hoping to break into. So in March 2016, whilst still in my final year of university – we came up with the idea for Coursematch, an app that allows students to find the right university course for them.
Concept in hand, we entered a Jisc competition that is now called the edtech launchpad, a competition that gives winning edtech ideas and startups the financial and business support to make their ideas reality, and improve and/or enhance the sector in some way. We were thrilled when we found out that we were one of the winning ideas!
The support that we were given by Jisc after our win was completely invaluable. Not only did we receive an initial £2,000 grant, but we were able to attend a week of outstanding workshops that focused on honing our ideas, and early stage customer development. This was something I hadn’t done with Coursematch yet, and quickly realised was of utmost importance.
The £2,000 grant also allowed me to focus my efforts full time on Coursematch, which was a significant contributing factor to how fast I was able to develop the app and get the all-important first version launched.
After our support from Jisc, we were accepted onto the three month Manchester Ignite Accelerator, which upon completion saw us start our seed fundraising efforts. Over the next few months we managed to raise £140,000 of funding from a collection of incredible angel investors across the UK, and have just closed another £140,000!
We have made some big improvements to the app, but know there is still a long way to go before we find the solution to the problem that we’ve set out to resolve, but we’re well on our way.
Over 10,000 students have downloaded and are benefitting from our app already, and we’ve had some really positive feedback. It’s great to know that our app is already making a difference, and that our business plan has been a success, too! I’d like to take a moment to thank Jisc for all of their help, efforts, and ongoing support with both myself and Coursematch.
For anybody who is thinking of applying to the Jisc competition - do it! You never know where you might end up a year later!