There are quite a few things in life that money should not be a barrier to, and education is certainly one of them. Every child should have the opportunity to experience the thrill of learning, no matter how much (or little) money their parents have. The grey area has always been tutoring; vital one-to-one teaching that can enhance a child’s motivation and confidence – providing their parents can afford it. This is a fact that Tracey Blake knew only too well, and one that she wanted to address.
The average hourly rate of a tutor in the UK was £30-£60 per hour in 2019, and demand for private tuition sky-rocketed in the wake of forced school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Children that couldn’t afford these prices were being left behind. To respond to this, Tracey created Swotties – an online service that aimed to democratise tutoring forever.
The premise is as ingenious as it is simple: pair up children with university students who can provide them with a personalised one-to-one lesson on any subject. The university students are paid directly and the prices for the lessons start at £15.99. It’s one of those win-win scenarios that are so infrequent, but so satisfying.
As the service is online, there are no geographical barriers – if there is a marine biology student in Aberdeen they can be paired with a child in Cornwall that has a keen interest in whales to really enhance that passion.
This broad mix of available tutors ensures that the lessons are kept fun for the children – they can see, and speak to, real-life role models providing them with a truly unique and fulfilling experience. Veterinary students, physicists, biologists, English students, mathematicians, students of theatre – all
available to these, mainly, Primary School aged children to enthuse and inspire.
The lessons are prepared with the help of an educational psychologist – the structure of the lesson is provided to the tutors who can then tailor it to fit the needs of each child. They will liaise with the parents to find out which areas to focus on, depending on the syllabus at the child’s school, or if there are any areas in particular that the child needs to focus on.
There is no real limit to the potential here – experiential learning is generally regarded as the quickest and most effective way for children to become engaged with a subject. Reading a Harry Potter book with a literature student that is obsessed with Harry Potter is an experience that so few children would ever get to experience. Until now.
The theory is all there and it is unquestionable. By her own admission, though, Tracey isn’t a technical person – she’s busy revolutionising education.
This is where we enter the story.
Getting any tech start-up off the ground is tough for even the most seasoned techies, but when you are not a technical person yourself, you have to put a lot of faith in other people. Tracey had been using a part-time engineer to help her create her initial product – it gave her a base to work from, but when he moved away she needed constant support in the lead up to her soft launch.
It’s a tale as old as time (well, as old as the internet) – a fantastic idea threatened by a lack of affordable tech. As a start-up that had not begun trading, she desperately needed the support and a reliable partner to help her create the technology that matched her vision, and who could fix the little issues that they were discovering.
Then she remembered a networking drinks event…
She had been talking to someone about Swotties and was told that she “had to meet” our CEO, Patrice, as he specialised in helping tech start-ups like her’s. She gave him a call.
We don’t waste any time when we get the opportunity to work with a business like this.
The day after Patrice had spoken to Tracey on the phone he was in touch with options of how to move forward. Tracey’s COO and Head of Product spoke to our team and was impressed with, not just their experience and qualifications, but how quickly they understood the project and what was going to be required.
Within days of that initial phone call, we were up and running.
The first challenge was getting to grips with the product that had already been created. It is often the case that when one developer has done all of the work that it takes a little while to untangle – our team was on to it straight away. It required a fair amount of work to get it ready for a launch in July, which was all done on time and to a high standard.
From that moment, though, it was all about reaction time. As is always the case when you launch, there are teething problems – little bugs that need urgent attention, or just react to the responses from customers about the useability. This is not the sort of thing that you can respond with “leave it with me for a week and I’ll have a look”. You need to get on with it. Our team got on with it. A quick turnaround whenever Swottie found a problem.
“It usually takes a lot of time to hand something over like this - particularly when one person has been working on it alone. The fact that Appy Ventures were able to pick that up within a very short period of time was fantastic.”
CEO & Founder
The initial launch of a product is an incredibly stressful time for any business owner. You know that there are going to be problems, but you just don’t know what, how big they will be and what it will take to fix them.
We took all of those stresses away from Tracey. If there was a problem, she could forward it to us and we would take care of it. If there was a way to make the product better, she could tell us and we would make it happen.
That was just the beginning though. We supplement not just the tech side of their business, but also the project management side – we act as a product partner, not just a tech partner. We work with Tracey, the visionary, to help her grow the business, and develop her tech product in order to do that.
We’re not just there for the launch – we know that once a product is built and live, that is just the beginning. We are here to provide Swotties with the ongoing support they need on an ad-hoc basis, whenever they need us.
Why Appy Ventures?
It’s all very well us puffing out our chest and detailing how great we are, so we thought we would speak to Tracey to see what she thinks of our service:
“It usually takes a lot of time to hand something over like this – particularly when one person has been working on it alone. The fact that Appy Ventures were able to pick that up within a very short period of time was fantastic… Having a very quick turnaround from noticing a problem to then getting it fixed is just great.”
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the success of this project is that the partnership between Swotties and Appy Ventures continues to thrive.
As our CEO Patrice puts it,
“the best indicator of success is an ongoing relationship”