How Norwich’s Developing Experts are helping put Norfolk business on the world stage
- Credit: Nick Butcher
For the team at Developing Experts, the pace of life seems only to get faster.
Since winning the Breaking Boundaries category sponsored by Lovewell Blake at the EDP Business Awards back in November, the company has closed a funding round, prepared its products for translations, and moved into new offices, while its directors have been travelling the globe to drum up interest in its education platform.
The Norwich-based firm specialises in building software which provides lesson plans and resources to support teachers covering unfamiliar subjects.
The company has been building a home school product for the UK market, but has also kept an eye on global expansion with founding director Sarah Mintey preparing to exhibit at 60 international shows this year.
She said Developing Experts' success at education technology shows Bett in the UK and Gess in Dubai was paving the way for some big contracts.
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Miss Mintey, a former headteacher, said: 'We went big to try to get our faces on everything but from those shows we have had a lot of interest from distributors.
'In Dubai, we had somebody from the department for education come to the stand to find out more and after that we had 20 different government officials come over – each wanting to see how it worked.'
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While selling to schools directly was the initial plan, Miss Mintey said there are several companies interested in becoming distributors in China, India, Saudi Arabia and Africa, potentially giving the company access to millions of schools across the globe.
Developing Experts can also claim to be putting Norfolk business on the international stage with local firms and institutions such as the John Innes Centre, Westover Veterinary Centre and Ben Burgess featuring in its lessons. Each one has an expert who is filmed talking pupils and teachers through the subject.
Miss Mintey said: 'We've had lots of support from other businesses which have given us access to their experts.
'We are getting lots of Norfolk firms involved and putting them in front of people.
'What we are doing is integrating industry with education throughout the curriculum. There are several business leaders featured in our lessons.'
The platform is designed to enable teachers who are not experts in the subject they are teaching to provide high-quality lessons for pupils.
While it started out focusing on Miss Mintey's area of expertise, science, it is now expanding to cover the full curriculum.
She added one of the product's selling points was that it was aimed for teachers rather than pupils.
Mrs Mintey's own experiences as a teacher showed her the need for a different way of looking at the curriculum, eventually leading her to build her own solution.
There has been rapid change at Developing Experts since it was founded in October 2015, following a year of research by Mrs Mintey and chief technology officer Shane Morgan.
She said: 'Shane and I were involved in a previous tech venture and through that I learnt the process of tech and more importantly I met Shane. When I wanted to come up with a solution for schools he was the obvious person to work with.'
Thanks to funding from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and £335,000 from angel investors at Anglia Capital Group, the firm has been able to expand its team to 11 people and has the firepower to push overseas.
Mr Morgan said growing his development team had enabled the company to expand its products as well as tailor software to fit the different age groups it was to serve.
He said: 'From my point of view we are trying to deliver really expert things through a technology platform to people who are not technologically-savvy.
'Most people want to get on with their jobs and not play around with the platform so it has to be as simple for them as possible.'
Another task Mr Morgan and the lesson writers have ahead of them is adapting each session for different cultures as they prepare to take the plunge overseas.
Dependent on sales closing Miss Mintey believes the firm could grow to around 40 staff within a year.