A winner of this month’s Business News 40Under40 awards, WA solicitor and entrepreneur Sarah Mateljan spoke to Dynamic Business about creating and running two successful EduTech start-ups and the utility of eLearning in countries experiencing conflict.
In 2008, Mateljan joined forces with her husband Vincent and their friend Lee Goldsworthy to develop LawCPD, an online platform where lawyers could complete mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) courses remotely using a smartphone, tablet or computer.
“Before LawCPD, lawyers had to travel to major cities to attend training in-person,” she said. “This wasn’t workable, particularly for my friends who lived and worked in the country. So, I looked for a technological solution to this problem, and when I couldn’t find one I worked with Vincent and Lee to create a new online platform. It’s now being used by lawyers and law firms throughout Australia to help keep up to date with their CPD.”
When the founding trio began fielding enquiries from companies and industry bodies outside the legal industry, they saw an opportunity to scale LawCPD’s technology to reach a wider audience. In 2012, they co-founded their second EduTech start-up, CourseGenius – an online platform that allows SMEs to create bespoke eLearning courses. While LawCPD is focused purely on the Australian Market, Mateljan and her cofounders are scaling CourseGenius for global growth.
“With CourseGenius, our aim was to make each step of the online training journey easy for SMEs,” Mateljan said. “People don’t need coding skills, an IT background or instructional design experience to use our platform – it’s accessible to everyone.
“Some businesses use CourseGenius to deliver in-house training to 50 staff and track their progress, while others take advantage of the eCommerce plugin it to sell bespoke course to 10,000+ customers. Our customer base is extremely diverse. We have customers in more than 25 industries including manufacturing, law, health, safety, retail chains, plus many more.”
Mateljan said the three biggest factors in the success of her two EduTech start-ups has been “our team, our technology and our marketing”. She explained: “Hiring the right team has been one of the most significant factors in the success of both companies, as has building a positive and productive work culture. The scalability and user-friendliness of our technology has made it easy for a range of businesses to quickly adopt and succeed with delivering online training. Implementing an aggressive digital marketing strategy has helped us reach a wider audience than would have been possible with traditional methods, helping us to rapidly scale the companies.”
In 2014, CourseGenius was brought to Afghanistan by Mateljan and her husband, who spent 18 months volunteering with an international NGO.
“We got involved because we saw how CourseGenius could help expand the reach of the NGO’s existing educational projects,” she explained. “I used our platform to establish an eLearning pilot program for the NGO’s leadership school in Kabul. This program enabled the NGO to continue delivering the leadership training remotely during a volatile and unstable period around the Presidential elections.
“Running this program was very rewarding both personally and professionally, as I firmly believe economic development and education have the potential to create stability in countries that currently have none. The experience also showed me how eLearning could be used to allow education to continue successfully in countries experiencing conflict.”
Mateljan said she was honoured to be recognised alongside Western Australia’s leading young entrepreneurs and business people in the Business News 40Under40 awards.
“I think it’s very encouraging, both for me and my team, because it shows our two businesses are on a par with some of WA’s leading companies,” she said. “It gives all of us the confidence of knowing we are on the right track, and to continue working hard to scale CourseGenius to become a global name in online training.”
Asked how she and her partners find time to run two start-ups, Mateljan said they manage their commitments to both ‘pretty well’ most of the year.
“We’ve been running LawCPD for nearly nine years now so everything runs quite smoothly,” she explained. “Throughout the year we tend to focus most of our time on CourseGenius, as this company is rapidly growing and scaling both in Australia and internationally. Things get a bit hectic in March, which is the CPD deadline for lawyers, and consequently LawCPD’s busiest month, but apart from that we manage very well!”