How did an assistant headteacher become an EdTech entrepreneur with software registering yearly growth of 250 per cent and revenue of around £3.1 million? Following recent VC investment, the CEO and founder of Satchel, Naimish Gohil, talks to GrowthBusiness on how he has grown his business and kept on in a challenging market.
Frustration can be one of the most positive emotions. It was what drove me to leave a successful career as an assistant headteacher to found a company whose software is used in over 1,500 schools in 23 countries.
But it wasn’t frustration with the profession that drove me out of school and into business; in fact, that wasn’t the plan at all. Rather, it was a deep dissatisfaction with edtech – in particular, how little value it provided to teachers and, by extension, to our pupils and their parents.
My particular bugbear was homework, which has been a problem for educators since time immemorial. With no centralised way of setting, managing, submitting or marking homework, teachers end up generating a blizzard of paperwork – all too easily lost by students, and difficult for teachers to manage.
It was purely out of frustration that I developed a piece of software, Show My Homework, to fix the perennial homework problem. I wanted schools to save money on paper planners and printing homework off for students, and to create a management function that would provide benefits for everybody – teachers, senior leaders, parents, and the students themselves.
EdTech in schools
The software enables teachers and SLT to monitor individual pupil progress, ensures that the right level of homework is set, provides better communication with parents who are so crucial in making sure homework gets done – as well as a range of other features such as online submission and marking.
It quickly became clear that Show My Homework was going to require complete commitment to get off the ground. The decision to invest my life savings into building the software, which over time has developed into the brand, Satchel, was obviously a daunting prospect – but I believed in what we were creating, and in the benefit it would bring to schools around the world. That confidence was soon recognised by other investors – from Angels, institutional VC firm Passion Capital, and most recently from LocalGlobe.
The product ignites real passion and understanding among prospects when they see it in action, so we spent a long time in the early days touring the country and attending trade shows – in fact, we still do. Receiving funding early on was crucial, as it enabled us to pay for all the travel required to build our business, and to continue developing the software.
The important of word of mouth
The great thing about the education sector is that people talk to each other – teachers who trained together, or former colleagues who stay in touch when they change schools. There are plenty of discussions and resource-sharing forums, and this all helped to build Show My Homework by word-of-mouth. Social media – particularly Twitter – has also been a very powerful platform, too; again, because there is a vibrant subculture of ‘Tweachers’; engaging with them early on was one of the smarter things we did.
The most important thing about a start-up is keeping the momentum going, and we put enormous effort into developing the product and getting ourselves in front of potential customers. Once we are in front of schools, they can easily see how our SaaS, per-pupil model will actually save them money rather than being another cost in these cash-strapped times for education.
Thanks to the team’s hard work, we’ve grown by about 250 per cent a year and are well-established around the world. Of course, there are other measurements of growth, such as our learning curve – as demonstrated by our ability to run our business better and at lower cost.
There is only one thing that I expect from my colleagues, and that is that they share the same passion as I do for transforming learning experiences and outcomes. Ultimately, it’s up to me to inspire and motivate the team, but you can’t train people to care about the mission – that has to come from within.
I think this passion for problem-solving is the key to any successful business. You have to find your niche: one that makes a difference to a large amount of people, and keep the customer – whether it’s teachers or schools, parents or students – in mind at all times. If you care about what you do and are committed to building the relationships that matter, then the rest will follow.
Yes, there are hard days and long nights, and sometimes it is difficult to remain motivated – until you remind yourself why you founded the company. Having that passion and belief is essential to surmount any frustration the business throws at you.
Find out more: Satchel