Start-up of the week: KnowledgeBase

6 Apr 2015

Pictured: Mark Stewart, Maeve Harrington and Peter Stewart

Our start-up of the week is KnowledgeBase, an e-learning player that has launched a resource aimed at providing busy professionals with detailed information on a range of important legal, regulatory and business subjects.

KnowledgeBase blends the necessary online content with video tutorials and also provides a mechanism for tracking progress and understanding.

KnowledgeBase’s first offering is an interactive, easy-to-use online resource for the new Companies Act 2014, the largest piece of legislation enacted in the history of the state.

The combination of a platform developed by leading web developers and content that has been created and reviewed by distinguished company law experts has resulted in an extremely powerful tool which functions both as a convenient guide to the new Companies Act and also a convenient method of further education for time-poor professionals.

“KnowledgeBase has been developed to provide busy professionals with a cutting-edge online tool to navigate complex pieces of legislation,” explains company director Maeve Harrington.

“KnowledgeBase has changed the way our users go about searching for and reading up on important legislation and industry standards. We cut out the noise, so that our users get straight to the relevant information.

“The KnowledgeBase team of experts has put in the hard hours, reading, researching and referencing so that our users are can access the specific information that they need to best complete their work and stay ahead of the field. This has only been possible to do now that we are living in an online connected world,” Harrington said.

The market

KnowledgeBase’s first offering is targeted specifically at those that require an understanding of Company Law in Ireland.

Primarily, this covers solicitors and accountants, but also includes barristers, company secretaries and directors. KnowledgeBase solves the problem of how to find specific information in the quickest and most reliable manner.

“We have started with the Companies Act 2014, as it is an immense piece of legislation with over 1,200 pages and extremely difficult to digest in one sitting. Many of our users only need to read and reference one particular section or part of the Companies Act at any time.

“The problem is that the new Act is so voluminous, they are not sure where that section is, or how they might find it. KnowledgeBase has presented the guide to the new Act in such a way that the relevant part can be found within seconds with links directly to the relevant section of the Act, as well as highlighting what’s new and other related areas that might be of importance.

“The e-learning element allows our users to bring themselves up to speed on the latest developments in their field of expertise and also apply it towards their continuing professional development (CPD) requirements,” Harrington said.

The founders 

The KnowledgeBase team of experts has been put together by Peter Stewart who has started a number of businesses in financial and management services and has extensive leadership and director experience including a spell as a director of NAMA.   

The KnowledgeBase team includes content director Anthony Thuillier, barrister, lecturer and author of Company Law in Ireland; Harrington, a seasoned marketing professional and project manager; and Stewart of Cloud Nine Consulting who heads up the tech development.

The technology

“Throughout the planning and development stages, our primary focus has been the seamless integration of exceptional content with a clean, fast and reliable online platform,” Harrington said.

“As a result, we have developed a solid and robust back-end which has enabled us offer an extremely user-friendly and intuitive front-end experience.

“Our researchers have done the reading, written the guides and produced the explanatory video clips, to save our users having to spend time doing it themselves. The challenge for our developers was to present this in the most effective and easy-to-use manner online.

“The structure of the guide has been built using strict hierarchies and arrangements to ensure the best user experience. While our key demographics will primarily access the resource from their desktops at work, the KnowledgeBase e-learning platform is optimised for use across all devices, so that our users can get the best results anywhere and anytime.”

Harrington believes KnowledgeBase will change the way professionals reference information and acquire training in relation to specific legislation, relevant industry standards and core professional development.

“Our aim is to build KnowledgeBase’s guide and e-learning platform into the leading online resource for educating busy professionals by expanding the number of subject areas covered under the one umbrella.”

Funded via customer sales

Unlike a lot of start-ups, KnowledgeBase is fully funded and has already developed to making sales which is a significant milestone for any company.

“But despite being fully funded, as a team we still maintain the mentality of a lean start-up, with everyone involved in the trenches day in and day out,” said Harrington.

“Everyone is fully aware of each piece of the business from the technical side of the offering to the pricing models. This has allowed us to strike a balance between building the best platform in the market and ensuring we have customers who are willing pay for the product.

“We are currently working with leading law firms, professional bodies and organisations. The KnowledgeBase platform makes it easier for members of professional bodies and organisations to reference information and acquire training on the new Companies Act and we are delighted with the response that we have received so far. 2015 is a big year for us and KnowledgeBase’s guide to the new Companies Act is very much the start of the journey. Over the course of the next year, we plan to significantly scale up our business by adding a number of new offerings that are in the development pipeline.”

Disrupting a traditional industry

It is always challenging when you want to innovate and be disruptive within a traditional industry, Harrington said.

“Our primary goal was the development of a robust and secure platform with a user-friendly and interactive interface and then to let the content do the talking for us. We have invested significant effort and resources in the development of KnowledgeBase within a relatively short time period. Key to meeting these challenges has been a strong core team, made up of qualified and passionate people who have made many sacrifices to develop KnowledgeBase.

“The intensive testing programme that we have been carrying out since the start of the year also threw up some challenges which in fact led to some really great improvements on the technical side.”

Harrington believes Ireland is an ideal location to start a business, with an abundance of skilled technology professionals and industry experts located here with a strong track record in the development of innovative business ideas.

“The size of the market and the community feel has also been highly beneficial throughout our development phase.

“There is such an innovative spirit in the Irish start-up scene at the moment, which is really exciting. Ireland is a fantastic place to do business and my advice is to pick your team carefully and – while it is important to plan, develop and test – in the end you have to be prepared to take the plunge and go for it.

“Also, speak to your core market throughout the design and development stage to help refine your product and make sure that you are solving the problem that your target market faces and not just creating something that you think will look great.

“Finally, don’t stop looking for feedback. This is customer service at its best. Find out what problems your customers face, what desires remain unmet and make sure to always be listening.”

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