Naimish Gohil, Founder of edtech software company Satchel, shares his experience of knowing your user and adapting your product with ProductTank London. Satchel are in 35% of secondary schools. To get there they’ve understood their end user better than anyone else and iterated their sales model just like a product.
The government have, for some time, been trying to get children to learn digital technologies such as front-end coding. The issue is that there is a significant shortage of teachers with those skill-sets. Naimish started in education by volunteering some of his time and knowledge in computer science, to help with these lessons.
Following that, he took up teaching Computing full-time and achieved success by making the computers more child-friendly. He also stopped teaching them about Microsoft Office and looked at content which would actually interest them.
Know your user – take care of your detractors
Teachers have had lots of experience with companies pushing bad technology onto them. Most of these suppliers have never set foot into a classroom and so are not well placed to solve the problems that their users are facing.
Satchel understand this and can use their experience – of actually teaching – to speak to people in a way that they understand and can see the value in. The alternative is even if the technology does get implemented in a school, it will fizzle out and not have the impact the school is paying for.
“Consistency leads to outstanding outcomes”
This saying is common amongst all the high performing schools in the country. From uniform to behaviour to the school vision, everyone working at a school needs to be able to give a consistent message to the students. Mixed messages are what cause difficulties in learning environments and the best seek to root them out.
Unless you make a school-based technology super simple to use, there’s no way you can achieve this consistency of experience for all the young learners.
Adapt your product – homework sucks
Everyone hates homework – students, teachers, and parents all see it as a chore. Naimish started out trying to solve this problem for school leaders. What they are most concerned with is not just the logistical aspect of deadlines and submission, but also what impact is it having. If they’re asking families to give up some of their time, they have to be able to prove it’s moving the needle.
With Show My Homework, Satchel didn’t try to solve all of the problems in this situation. The original platform had 200 potential features, but they trimmed this right down to just what most people were going to use most of the time. This led to uptake and adoption because the tool ‘did what it said on the tin’ and nothing else.
“You can’t build a big business in education”
When Satchel first started, the barriers to entry in the schools marketplace were seen as too significant to build a sustainable business. This was why finding venture capital funding for Satchel’s original product was hard. So hard that Naimish started it all by investing his own capital – something his parents were not happy about!
These first 5 years were the hardest in Satchel’s history. Naimish’s chief lesson from this time was that if you’re in a corner and no one will help you, you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. His top question was how to become a sustainable business, through a revenue model that worked for them.
How to sell to schools
Fortunately for Satchel, at the same time the Conservative government were freeing up schools to make their own investment decisions in technology. Rather than having to use a single, centralised provider, each Head Teacher could use whichever system they wanted – which opened up the market for smaller players such as Naimish and his team.
This was only the beginning of the opportunity though. Schools need to be sold to in a very particular way, given the lack of commercial experience in most organisations. You need to understand their world, speak their lingo and show how you can solve their problems.
Building a revenue stream is just like building a product
Predictable Revenue, by Taylor & Ross, taught Naimish how he and his team needed to work out exactly who the decision maker was within the schools, and how their product was making their lives easier.
From here they could build sustainable revenue and a business that would last. In order to get to this stage, they took the approach of any good product manager – they tested repeatedly to learn what worked best and iterated. Central to all of this was also data, such as the number of demos per sale or the average decision making time, to work out which direction they should go in.
A good product is not enough
One of the big lessons that Naimish took from Satchel’s success is ensuring that you’ve got enough people to help your users understand and make the most of your product. Their customer success teams have been able to keep their churn rate below 10% which ensures their revenue is stable and sustainable.