From The Times supplement on The Future of Learning

EdTechX-Europe – Europe’s biggest edtech conference, held in London

Emerge Education

  • tracks more than 23,000 edtech startups world-wide;
  • provides startups with up to £100,000 of investment;
  • provides dedicated co-working space and accelerator programme;
  • supports product testing and sales.

Gojimo – apps for revision and tutoring

Show My Homework – Set, track and grade homework digitally

Memrise – app to learn languages

VitalSource – electronic text books; tracking tools that allow for monitoring of usage and student progress; tools to help educators deliver content and monitor engagement to help ensure student success. Dr Phil Gee, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Plymouth, says it “runs one of the largest UK eTextbook programmes“.

Pi-Top – software plus hardware based on Raspberry Pi to help teach across science, technology, engineering and maths.

Boolino – website where expert bloggers, booksellers, librarians and teachers help children find new books to read.

Fiction Express – interactive resource for literacy where primary school pupils take part in the story-writing process and can change the plot while the author is writing it.

Learning & Development research firm Ambient Insight divides Gamefied learning into four categories:

  • game-playing to achieve learning objectives;
  • simulations to teach skills in an immersive environment;
  • points, badges and leader boards as a means of motivation; and
  • gamification – the use of rewards to motivate behaviour in a non-game context.

Key ideas in The Lean Startup

Reference: ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Reis

Entrepreneurship requires a managerial discipline to harness the entrepreneurial opportunity.

Lean startup adapts ideas from lean thinking to the context of entrepreneurship, viz drawing on the knowledge and creativity of individual workers, the shrinking of batch sizes, just-in-time production and inventory control, and an acceleration of cycle times.

Lean startup uses ‘validated learning’ as a unit of progress.

Startups have an engine of growth. Every new version of a product, every new feature, and every new marketing program is an attempt to improve this engine of growth. … not all of these changes turn out to be improvements, new product development happens in fits and starts. Much of the time in a startup’s life is spent tuning the engine by making improvements in product, marketing, or operations.

The Lean Startup method involves driving the startup by making constant adjustments with a steering wheel called the Build – Measure – Learn feedback loop. Through this process of steering, learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether to persevere along the current path.

Throughout the process of driving the startup there is a destination in mind: a thriving business – the startup’s vision. To achieve that vision startups employ a strategy which includes a business model, a product road map, a point of view about partners and competitors, and ideas about who the customer will be. The product is the end result of this strategy.

Products change constantly through the process of optimization (tuning the engine of growth). Less frequently, the strategy may have to change (called a pivot). However, the overarching vision rarely changes. Entrepreneurs are committed to seeing the startup through to that destination.

Tools for business design & test

Quotes from the books Value Proposition Design and Business Model Generation by Osterwalder & Pigneur

“The business model design process … has five phases: Mobilize, Understand, Design, Implement, and Manage.

… the Understanding and Design phases tend to proceed in parallel.

Business model prototyping can start early in the Understanding phase, in the form of sketching preliminary business model ideas.

… prototyping during the design phase may lead to new ideas requiring additional research – and a revisiting of the Understand phase.

… the last phase, Manage, is about continuously managing your business model(s). In today’s climate, it’s best to assume that most business models, even successful ones, will have a short lifespan. Considering the substantial investment an enterprise makes in producing a business model, it makes sense to extend its life through continuous management and evolution until it needs complete rethinking. Management of the model’s evolution will determine which components are still relevant and which are obsolete.”

“The Environment Map helps you understand the context in which you create.
The Business Model Canvas helps you create value for your business.
The Value Proposition Canvas helps you create value for your customers.”

“The value proposition is visible and tangible and thus easy to discuss and manage. It perfectly integrates with the Business Model Canvas and the Environment Map, two tools that are discussed in detail in Business Model Generation … Together, they shape the foundation of a suite of business tools.
The Value Proposition Canvas zooms into the details of two of the building blocks of the Business Model Canvas.”

Formation Zone – Plymouth

Website: http://www.formationzone.co.uk/
0800 052 5600 | Facebook | Twitter
Location: 2nd floor of Marine Building in Plymouth University. Half of this floor is used by startups, the other half by members of the university’s Innovation Services team.
Some photos
Resources for Parents

Pre-startup package: duration 2 months; £60 fixed fee for use of one desk; appropriate support services.
Startup package: duration up to 2 years; £160 fee per desk; full range of support services.

There are monthly drop-in sessions from November to April.

Formation Zone Business Challenge. An annual competition to develop an innovative business idea. There are six categories:social enterprise, creative, digital and technology, marine, health and environment. Open to students currently at the university or its associated colleges and to recent alumni.

Some alumni

Munch Movement. A mobile catering business. Provides wood-fired pizzas at private parties, wedding receptions, corporate hospitality and events.

Mutant Labs. Computer games.

So Good Studios. eLearning computer games.

Total Monkery. Computer games.


Tom Eisenmann

My Photo

 is a professor at Harvard Business School who studies startup management and tech entrepreneurship. In 2011 he developed a new course at Harvard Business School: Launching Tech Ventures. His blog contains some valuable resources.


Growth, Acceleration and Investment Network

The Growth, Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) “was founded by Plymouth University, Plymouth City Council and Tamar Science Park to accelerate the creation, growth and investment in high quality businesses and ideas to create wealth and jobs in the South West“. It is a regional partnership involving formation zones, innovation centres, business networks and the national University Enterprise Network. Through its partners GAIN is involved with more than 500 businesses. It seeks to add value by creating “a focused and accessible business ecosystem of aspirational businesses and investors”.

GAIN has different though related value propositions for businesses, for people with ideas, for investors and for partners.

  • For investors: GAIN will reduce risk and maximise growth by finding the best businesses and ideas, providing a first look at potential deals, bringing intelligence together in one place and helping businesses become investment-ready.
    For partners: GAIN puts you at the heart of the South West’s most important business growth network.

GAIN20 will give “the most innovative and exciting businesses in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset exclusive access to a unique series of opportunities and support over 12 months. … The aim is [to] boost enterprise and innovation across the region. …. Half of the GAIN20 will be recruited through Crowdfunder … ”

Some partners …

Formation Zone is a business start-up service (incubator) based on Plymouth University campus. The university also manages three Innovation Centres in Cornwall on behalf of Cornwall Council: at Pool, Penryn, and Truro. Unlike the BETA Enterprise Programme, the service is open to everyone. They are looking for innovative start-ups in these sectors: creative industries; hi-tech; marine, environmental, advanced engineering; health and well-being.

X Forces, based in London, supports ex-forces people and their families to start up businesses by providing them with loans, mentoring and support. People who think they could support X-FORCES with sponsoring, mentoring, work experience, contribution to the start-up fund of by offering a service or product are asked to contact admin@x-forces.com.

THINQTANQ is a socially-minded business based in Plymouth. It offers a range of office and workspace facilities.

Business Information Point provides advice, guidance, business support, training and information to both pre-start and existing businesses.