Debate Mate

Case Study

Isn’t it great when things just click? In life and in business, sometimes two things come together and it immediately feels right – a partnership that equals more than the sum of its parts. Well, that happened to us recently when we were asked to help out a Mate…allow me to introduce you to Debate Mate.

The concept

Over a decade ago they realised the power of competitive debating, and how it could be used to teach the skills of communication and leadership to people. It really took off all over the world – from London to Dubai, New York to Shanghai. Part of the genius behind the idea is that these skills are applicable to everyone. They have been working closely with people of all ages, from as young as five-years-old, and from all kinds of different backgrounds. Such is the broad nature of their appeal, they have a keen focus on their non-profit work with schools in disadvantaged areas, while also working with superstars such as Usain Bolt and David Beckham.

The business

Their business falls into three main areas:

Schools: Setting up after school debate programmes in order to teach key skills
Corporate: Working with businesses to teach leadership and communication with a focus on the professional world
Online: Teaching the programme to young people and adults all over the world

Since their inception in 2008, Debate Mate have been rapidly growing in exciting and innovative directions – in 2015 they partnered with the Office of the Prime Minister to develop ‘Downing Street Debates’ and in 2016 they worked with Comic Relief and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partner to deliver ‘The Big Debate’.

Then 2020 happened…

“Within weeks of working with Appy Ventures, they began to hear that satisfying sound of silence that always accompanies a programme running smoothly.”

The partnership

Debate Mate’s innovative and creative business is exactly the sort of project that we like to sink our teeth into. Initially the conversation revolved around their technical requirements, but at Appy Ventures we like to focus on much more than that. It wasn’t just about where Debate Mate were today, but also their mission for the future and how we could help them get there. This wasn’t lost on Debate Mate – they were blown away by the fact that we immediately understood how to juggle the aspirations for their company with the practical requirements for the job.

The experience across our team of tech development and business strategy, combined with Debate Mate’s innovation and drive, success was inevitable.

The challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for so many of us, and like most businesses, it threw up a whole host of potential problems for Debate Mate.

The best businesses don’t see problems though – they see opportunity.

Their fresh approach to training and personal development hadn’t lost any of it’s appeal, quite the opposite in fact. However, at the time, their online business catered exclusively for teachers and schools but there was now huge potential in a direct-to-customer product. Something to enable them to work directly with younger people and sell directly to parents, thus providing them with the same opportunities to develop their communication and leadership skills, and creating a whole new revenue stream.

They didn’t waste any time. They quickly set up a basic e-commerce site on which they could take payments and allocate the online sessions. This got them up and running but it wasn’t long before they ran into their next issue.

The new programme was incredibly popular. Overwhelmingly so, and they quickly realised that they needed a more operationally workable solution to satisfy this unbelievable demand. Up to that point, they had only worked with a single, self-employed developer who had helped them get the product off the ground but had become swamped by the day-to-day maintenance. They knew they needed to bring in a partner to get their online service to where they needed it to be.

“It's really nice to work with a business that meets really, really high-quality standards. We're just really excited to continue working with Appy Ventures.”

Seun Iyaniwura

Group Head of Education

The result

When Debate Mate first launched this online side of their business back in the early days of the pandemic, they found that they were constantly hearing from their customers who needed help with technical issues. It was taking up far too much time and took away their focus.

Within weeks of working with Appy Ventures, they began to hear that satisfying sound of silence that always accompanies a programme running smoothly.

But that is just the start – now they are free to focus on growing that side of the business. With us, they have found a tech partner that will not only create their products to an incredibly high standard, but that can also advise and support this side of their business to ensure it meets their overall goals as a company.

Crucially, though, we have helped them provide their customers with a product that they are proud of, and that represents their commitment to quality in everything they do.

Why Appy Ventures?

There are thousands of developers out there, what was it that made them so sure that Appy Ventures were the right choice?

We don’t expect you to take our word for it, so we asked them.

In the words of Seun, Director of Education, at Debate Mate, “the problem we’ve always had in the past is that we meet lots of people in tech and they have a-million-and-one solutions, but actually those things aren’t specific to what we need to do.”

We listened. We went away and tailored what they offered to the needs of their client. Not just their needs today, but where they want to take this programme and their business.

As Seun put it, “you don’t talk to us like we are non-tech people. You talk to us in a way that is really professional but also really understandable.” Of course, none of that would matter if the work wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, there are no worries on that side of things either… “It’s really nice to work with a business that meets really, really high-quality standards.”

“We’re just really excited to continue working with Appy Ventures.”



Product Manager