Why a small publishing company can be beautiful
by Natasha Qureshi, MA Publishing
We were given the great opportunity, as part of the digital seminar series, to hear from Charley Darbishire, the managing director and founder of the online educational platform Educake. A resource for teachers and students of secondary science, it provides teachers with online tests marked by the system itself - a real timesaver for the teacher and a tool for tracking the students’ learning progression. Charley explained the origins of this entrepreneurial and creative idea.
After studying psychology at university and then writing computer guides he found himself entering one of the biggest educational publishers, CGP. This provided him with the educational publishing experience that would contribute to his new venture. Charley found he learnt a lot from the mistakes publishers were making. Although educational publishing was moving from print to digital, some publishers weren’t making the change or those that did were creating digital products that failed to actually give their users what they wanted or needed. Yet the biggest issue facing Charley was the mundane day-to-day process of working for someone else. He felt his job had become too easy, there was no longer a challenge, so he decided to quit.
Quit! Was it that easy? What if you stayed, wouldn’t things get better? Instead, Charley decided to do something many of us possibly secretly crave to bring about: he started his own digital publishing company and set himself a challenge. Investing his own time and lots of borrowed money into Educake, he made a new online tool and then approached teachers to sign up for free trials and got results, to an extent. Teachers had access to Educake but they weren’t using it. With so much depending on the project, he developed an advisory board of contacts in the education sector - a board that exists within the company today. With this feedback the company improved the product to make it one that was central to the needs of the user. Teachers were simply invited to test Educake for free and, after a time, asked to pay. Teachers had access to a huge bank of online questions, suitable for many of the different GSCE exam boards, that they could set and wouldn't have to mark. Educake is quick and easy to use. It was a slow process, but word of mouth is spreading and it is currently being used by 80,000 students and their teachers.
Charley’s future ventures will include selling to international schools, developing Educake for further subjects, and developing a primary science model for KS2 SATs.
Last edited: 24 02 2016