Adaptemy is bringing AI into the global classroom

6 Nov 2017

From left: Adaptemy founders Conor Flynn and Conor O’Sullivan. Image: Adaptemy

Our Start-up of the Week, Adaptemy, is sparking a learning revolution in schools around the world.

“Adaptemy creates the technology that powers adaptive learning products for educational publishers across the world,” explained Adaptemy CEO Conor O’Sullivan.

“Adaptive and personalised learning is transforming schools across the world, enabling teachers to create individual learning paths for each student,” he explained.

‘Our goal is to improve education across the world by working with publishers to develop and deliver truly intuitive and effective intelligent learning products to millions of students and teachers’

“This results in more engaged learners, happier teachers and grade improvements of over 20pc.”

The market

Educational publishers, which traditionally produce textbooks, partner with Adaptemy to create intelligent digital learning products.

“We initially targeted the largest companies across Europe, but have recently expanded into Africa and Latin America.

“We are now raising funds to accelerate our growth and meet the demand expressed by publishers in a number of other key markets.”

The founders

Adaptemy is bringing AI into the global classroom

Adaptemy CEO Conor O’Sullivan. Image: Adaptemy

O’Sullivan has been directly responsible for transformative technology projects in the education sector for more than 10 years.

Previously CTO at one of Ireland’s leading educational publishers, he devised a strategy and built a team that delivered many market-leading innovations in educational technology.

Adaptemy is bringing AI into the global classroom

Adaptemy COO Conor Flynn. Image: Adaptemy

Conor Flynn has been reshaping classroom experiences for more than 15 years.

A teacher and management consultant, Flynn’s insight into organisational behaviour and social responsibility has seen him successfully open schools and reimagine curriculums and teaching practices across the globe.

The technology

“To deliver an effective solution, a deep understanding of the curriculum is required. How else can you expect to provide the right content, at the right time, to each student?” asked O’Sullivan.

“Publishers have perfected this process in print over decades.

“But digital content differs from paper content in multiple and varying ways. The layout is different; there’s UX [user experience] to consider. The ‘digital brain’ adds another layer to this – that is, the way the brain absorbs digital information versus ‘offline’ or hard-copy information.

“To ensure a seamless transition, artificial intelligence sits at the core of our products. Using complex mathematical models of learning technologies – such as Bayesian networks, machine learning and various classifiers – we organise educational content on a curriculum framework, but maintain a clear separation between curriculum and content.”

O’Sullivan explained that the content is defined for each knowledge item; supports various content formats and standards, ranging from text to audio, video and animations; and is applicable to any learning domain.

“Ultimately, this enables various and unique learning experiences that can be adapted to different teaching and learning styles.

“Our goal is to improve education across the world by working with publishers to develop and deliver truly intuitive and effective intelligent learning products to millions of students and teachers.”

Making an impact

In terms of progress, O’Sullivan said Adaptemy is in a positive position.

“We have signed some fantastic global customers, including the largest publishers in Ireland, Spain and Germany.

“Our goal now is to build on this success, signing more large customers around the world while growing the business with existing customers by expanding into more subject areas and product types.”

He explained that the company is in the middle of a fundraising round, which it hopes to close soon.

“The most difficult challenge has been judging the speed of the market, to ensure that our investment in sales and development is appropriately matched to the market environment, including competitors and market trends.

“Like many other tech start-ups, the task of growing a strong team has been apparent. We’ve found that working with an experienced resourcing partner – Harvey Nash, in our case – is the best way to overcome the initial problem of attracting talent.

“Managing culture, road-mapping and team performance have been absorbing and genuinely rewarding experiences. We’re learning all the time.”

Ireland’s start-up ecosystem is maturing

O’Sullivan said that the start-up landscape in Ireland is growing up.

“While the drive for start-ups across Ireland and Europe is inspiring, it is not without its challenges. Most notably, the speed of maturation – possibly exaggerated by the large amount of VC funding in tech – demands an agile approach to growth and expansion.

“Having the right support structures in place is essential. We located in the Versari Hub, and the support of experienced entrepreneurs was invaluable, especially at the beginning. We now take for granted the ability to lean on this experience where we don’t have the expertise in our team.

“[The] Enterprise Ireland HPSU [High-Potential Start-Up] programme deserves particular credit for the amazing support it provides. The advice, insight and introductions they’ve provided have been invaluable to us. We are also a member of Learnovate, a government-supported technology centre, which acts as an excellent networking hub in the e-learning industry.”

O’Sullivan’s advice for fellow founders is to stick to the maxim that the customer is always right.

“Accept the generous help of experienced entrepreneurs, either via a start-up hub or through your own network – the regular advice will help you avoid lots of common problems.

“After that, stay close to your customers – and not just friendly customers, but as good a cross-section of your target market as you can.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years