The Disruptors: How Norwich EdTech start-up Developing Experts is tackling the skills shortage
EdTech company Developing Experts is redefining how science can be taught in schools. CEO Sarah Mintey explains more.
Tell us a bit about Developing Experts
It’s a complete curriculum solution for children aged 4-14 years, with a growing library of over 700 interactive, online lessons with practical investigations, fun experiments, handouts and assessment for learning activities fully mapped against the national curriculum. We’re starting with science, showcasing the application of concepts as they apply within the world of work.
What was the opportunity you identified that led to the launch of your business?
A 2016 survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) identified that 89pc of primary teachers don’t feel confident about teaching maths and science; these teachers are routinely expected to teach subjects as non-specialists.
In addition to this, I wanted children to understand the application of the concepts they were being taught as they apply to the world of work, to get them inspired and excited by STEM careers.
How did you use invention and innovation to disrupt the market?
My starting point was to create a change-making solution and a curriculum which was fit for purpose to address the skills shortage.
Currently careers is taught as a bolt-on and introduced at too late an age to make an impact; recent Department for Education research shows that children begin to eliminate their least-favoured career options between the ages of 9-13 years.
I wanted to provide governments with a solution which enables them to strategise the development of their countries through a joined-up approach with the tools which enable them to do so. We’re the only education solution in the market place which connects, employers, training pathway providers, parents, teachers and governments together.
What were the challenges you faced along the way and how did you learn from them?
I started the business with no financial resource – my co-founder Shane Morgan brought his skills as a developer and I bought my business and teaching skills – we developed our first compromised prototype on a shoestring.
Developing a large vision without the resource and having to develop and execute it in small steps take patience, but having the clarity of vision to solve the problem was key.
I also didn’t realise the impact and value-added our angel investors would bring to the journey. Chairman Patrick Smith and board member Barry Chevalier Guild have added a level of support and leadership which has made our success possible. The strength of your network and team is everything; having people around you who believe in you and the company, are steadfast and equally driven and better than you in their own area of expertise helps drive the company forward. Team is everything!
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Winning Tech Nation’s Rising Stars competition earlier this year was a pretty big moment, but we just won a contract with the Chinese government, which tops it. It’s what I’ve been working towards from the moment the company was formed and is a huge milestone in the company’s development! To date, we’ve secured £1.5m from our investors; this contract rewards their belief and patience.
If you were starting from the beginning again, what would you do differently?
There are things I would do differently, but without the painful lessons learnt through those experiences I wouldn’t be where I am now. Along the journey, I’ve bought several consultants on board but at the end of the day, nobody knows your business better than you do or is as invested in making it work.
It’s easy to do things differently with the benefit of hindsight but first time round I did everything I believed to be right. I’ve always tried to surround myself by experts and people who know more than me and I will continue to do so.
What advice would you give somebody launching a start-up?
Think big! Think about how to create system-wide change! Keep tenaciously committed to your goals, be ready to change and adapt to respond to opportunities and most of all be prepared to work hard.
What are your plans for the future?
We have a massive year ahead working with our Chinese partners to develop the product aggressively, complete our Key Stage 4 science curriculum, build our maths curriculum and introduce a number of new technology upgrades as we prepare to launch in India and the US.