Underpinned by a readily scalable solution to multiple pain points in the education sector, Canberra EdTech start-up Quizling has secured partnerships with some of Australia’s most prestigious cultural institutions plus funding from leading angel investor groups.
Having amassed thousands of local users since launching a year ago, co-founders Dion Oxley and Damien Trask are looking to introduce their quiz platform into the US, off the back of an appearance at SxSWedu, an EdTech event in Austin, Texas next month. Of note, Quizling was the only Aussie start-up selected to pitch at the SxSWedu Launch competition, where it will compete against nine other international finalists.
Oxley, who serves as Quizling’s COO, spoke to Dynamic Business about the factors that have fuelled the start-up’s success to date as well as the growth opportunities afforded by SxSWedu and the huge potential for other entrepreneurs to make a mark in the EdTech space.
Dynamic Business: What is Quizling and how does it work?
Oxley: Quizling is an app-based quiz platform where users can create and play compelling quizzes and share them with friends through social networks. They can also play quizzes created by leading cultural and educational bodies including museums, galleries and think-tanks. Using the platform, these organisations are able to educate and engage with their audience in a really fun and accessible way, while simultaneously promoting their own expertise and gaining brand exposure to wide new audiences.
Quizzes provided by our partner organisations are written by authorities in their fields, whereas the quizzes contributed by the average user are like any Wikipedia article – they can be reported and edited for accuracy. Consequently, they end up becoming the product of dozens of different people, not just one. Empowering anyone to create and edit quizzes is, we feel, massive strength as the learning experience is inevitably far richer and more comprehensive.
Dynamic Business: What sparked the idea for Quizling?
Oxley: My business partner Damien and I met at university, where we studied secondary education together, and we later conceived Quizling while teaching in the ACT. The idea arose out of an interaction between Damien and one of his students. He’d been struggling with science and asked Damien whether there was a health quiz he could play to boost his understanding.
Damien and I searched online for a quiz that fit the bill but nothing was available, so we decided to devise one ourselves! It was a big hit, not only with our students but our colleagues too. This success galvanised us to conceive a digital tool that would enable educators – and students – to create purpose-built quizzes. We believed it would facilitate a more flexible learning environment and our research showed there was nothing like it around.
Dynamic Business: How did it transition from idea to start-up?
Oxley: Quizling had its soft launch in 2015 with the Royal Australian Mint, National Gallery of Australia, National Sports Museums and National Library of Australia joining us as our innovation partners. They gave us a channel to market plus great content to enhance our offering. Our first big break came when we successfully pitched to Sydney Angels and ACT’s Capital Angels. We received a total of $300,000 in funding from both these sources plus the Sydney Angels Sidecar Fund, which matches any Sydney Angels investment dollar for dollar. This allowed us to formally launch in February 2016. Quizling has since become a full-time commitment and while we interact with schools daily, we must admit we miss teaching!
Dynamic Business: What pain points does the start-up address?
Oxley: The app addresses a number of different problems for our stakeholders:
- On the learning side, students have grown increasingly bored of non-interactive paper worksheets. They want fun, game-based learning that reflects the way they socialise and interact in our increasingly online and mobile-centric world.
- On the education side, teachers are becoming increasingly time-poor – they have an endless supply of information at their fingertips but insufficient time to organise it into meaningful lessons that comply with increasingly rigorous and overly-scrutinised curriculums. They require flexible access to high-quality content they can simply and easily use in the classroom to enhance the learning experience for their students. The best part about our quizzes for teachers is they are self-marking!
- On the partnership side, the museums and other cultural/educational organisations we partner with need outreach (i.e. they need to be able to share their collections and content with audiences all over the country) in order to gain the exposure necessary to maintain funding. Quizling helps them to do this.As an example, our museums have some of the best collections in the world, which can be promoted by sending out quizzes highlighting various elements of the collection. These quizzes aren’t just shared in the classroom, they’re shared on social media too. The backend analytics also mean these organisations can map audience engagement around Australia and even globally.
Dynamic Business: How does Quizling generate revenue?
Oxley: We designed Quizling as a free app with no advertising – anyone can download it on iOS or Android. Instead, revenue is generated via a subscription model that has huge utility for our partner organisations; namely, it helps them build brand awareness while equipping them with statistics on user engagement and outreach. For instance, the Royal Australian Mint was able to discover that their Play School anniversary quiz was enormously popular, not just in their local area of Canberra but right the way around Australia, from Townsville to Hobart to Broome and so many places in between! Teachers can also purchase subscriptions to access the useful learning data on their class, including what students know before they start a course, what they are stuck on, how they are improving, and what they are engaging with most.
Dynamic Business: How do you quantify Quizling’s success?
Oxley: The key measures have been our massive outreach the partnerships we’ve secured with high-quality institutions. In terms of outreach, not only have our quizzes been played across Australia, they’ve also been played further abroad including some really unexpected locations – Antarctica, Uruguay and the Gaza Strip to name just a few!
We’re really excited by our partnerships. Recently, we worked with TEDxCanberra and TEDxScottBase to assist with the 60th Anniversary of the Antarctic research base. Our other partners include the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the Royal Australian Mint, the National Sports Museum, Inspiring Australia, and the ABC’s Behind the News.
Another measure of Quizling’s success has been the hugely positive response from within the education sector. We run teacher training courses endorsed by the Teacher Quality Institute (TQI) and the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA, formely BOSTES), and have discovered that 97% of participants recommend Quizling to their colleagues. At a recent conference, I asked attendees whether their schools would like to work with us – I had replies before I had even finished talking!
Dynamic Business: What factors have underpinned success?
Oxley: Damien and I have developed a deep understanding of education, through lived experience, which helped provide a strong foundation for our success. Another factor in our success has been the fact that we’ve actively listened to our stakeholders. We receive useful insights from our partner organisations, who’ve taught us a great deal about how galleries and libraries function. We’ve also been receptive to feedback from our schools and teachers regarding the application of Quizling in their classrooms. Of course, the kids who play our quizzes are an especially useful source of information – we can’t wait to implement all of their great suggestions!
Additionally, we’ve been fortunate to have a network of truly amazing mentors. Sylvia Tulloch (Griffin Accelerator, Capital Angels) and Adrian Bunter (Sydney Angels) are on our board, and have provided Damien and I with a wealth of knowledge drawn from their experiences of growing their own start-ups. Petra Andrén and Ben Wright from deep technology incubator, Cicada Innovations, have also been amazing sources of wisdom, as have Craig Davis and Nick McNaughton in Canberra.
Dynamic Business: How did you win over Quizling’s investors?
Oxley: To be honest, it was really easy to pitch Quizling to investors because, quite simply, it’s a really good product! Damien and I knew our market, had first-hand knowledge of the pain points it addressed, and had a solution that was readily scalable – the potential for global reach appealed strongly to investors at Sydney Angels and Capital Angels.
If there’s one thing I can’t stress enough to entrepreneurs seeking funding it’s to practice, practice, practice your pitch! On the day we pitched to Sydney Angels, I was running on a treadmill and practicing the pitch in my head over and over and over… Damien and I now joke that the pitch didn’t just take 10 minutes, it also took 2.2km!
Dynamic Business: What challenges have you and Damien faced?
As a non-technical founder, it was a big challenge to turn my vision into a technical reality with a commercial application and a path for growth. Overcoming this was a matter of building the right technical support team with the right skills to build the product. Aside from that, probably like most startups, our second biggest challenge has been sleep – when do we get to have some of that!?! It’s been a few years now…
Dynamic Business: What does SxSWedu finals berth mean to you?
Oxley: Damien and I were thrilled to learn we’d been selected for the SxSWedu finals in March because it is the premier education event. Each year, it attracts around 14,000 teachers, education leaders, museum curators and EdTech investors, who journey to Austin, Texas to share – and collaborate on – new ideas. Did you know Twitter got its start at SxSW?
The event is hugely advantageous for Quizling. In the first instance, we’ll get to network with – and bounce ideas off – other players in the EdTech space. There will also be opportunities to form new partnerships, attract further funding and accelerate growth. In addition, the event will increase our brand exposure. The publicity associated with SxSW is just enormous – even Joe Hockey has tweeted about our participation, which is exciting!
As a result of our selection, we’ve also been chosen to join the Austrade delegation. Damien and I are incredibly proud that we get to show an international audience what Australia has to offer in the way of EdTech innovation.
Dynamic Business: Beyond SxSWedu, what’s next for Quizling?
Oxling: Damien and I hope to launch Quizling internationally – and we view SxSWedu as the perfect stage to do this from. We’ve already started conversations with potential partners in the US because their teachers and students face the same problems as ours do and their galleries are looking to promote their collections to new audiences. We’re confident that our commercial strategy for Australia can be replicated in the US fairly easily. To help us grow, we have another funding round underway with room for interested new investors.
Dynamic Business: Is there plenty of potential to mine in the EdTech space?
Oxling: Education was slow to the technology boom, but it’s beginning to catch up and there’s still plenty of room for start-ups to improve the educational experience. A word of caution for entrepreneurs, however…being a teacher, I can assure you that you want to break into EdTech, you need to get it right – if you’re standing in front of 25 teenagers, you had better hope that your technology works!