Our start-up of the week is StudyBundles, creators of an app aimed at improving enrolment rates at universities and colleges.
“We have designed a mobile app called CampusConnect for use by universities and colleges,” explained Declan Sweeney, co-founder of StudyBundles.
“It helps them to connect with applicants and support incoming students in the pre-arrival phase.”
There are more than 10,000 universities worldwide that recruit overseas students.
‘Overall, it’s amazing to think how far we have come in the space of a year’
– DECLAN SWEENEY, STUDYBUNDLES
“The problem many face is the loss of up to 50pc of their under-offer applicants. This poor conversion rate represents a significant loss of potential revenue.
“In using the latest app technology, CampusConnect is an innovative approach to improving enrolment rates.
The StudyBundles founders are three good friends. Sweeney and Dan Hinkley met when they were students at Manchester University.
“We went on to work in the tertiary sector and had firsthand experience in the student recruitment sector, preparing and supporting students for university life in the UK. It was from this that we conceived our business idea in 2014.
The third founding member is John O’Hagan, a school friend of Sweeney’s from St Clare’s Comprehensive in Manorhamilton.
‘The Innovation Centre in Sligo is a great place to work. There’s a real spirit of camaraderie, mutual support and willingness to share ideas’
– DECLAN SWEENEY, STUDYBUNDLES
“We spent a good year or so doing research and talking to as many people as possible. We launched as a company in April 2015.
“Dan and I focus more on the education and business side whereas John is the creative design genius but, in truth, we work closely as a team.
“In fact, the numbers on our team have now doubled. Cathal McArdle joined us in the Sligo office in April 2015, initially on a work experience placement. His area of expertise is in web development and graphic design.
“As he’s super-talented we soon decided to hire him full-time.
“Steve Pagan joined us at the end of the year. His background is in the UK education sector, both as a teacher and administrator. He has brought the steadying hand of experience to the team, particularly in terms of strategic planning.”
StudyBundles’ most recent member is Evy Perez Alvarado. “Originally from Venezuela, her background is in B2B relationship management and marketing and she is now leading our sales drive.”
As an app, CampusConnect enables university recruitment teams to establish more intelligent connections with prospective students.
For example, once a student receives an offer from a university, they download the app, log in and create their own individual profile.
The information they provide allows the university or college to provide a bespoke service, feeding them information specifically relevant and useful to the individual.
“The ultimate goal is to grow the business in a scalable fashion so that we are able to provide each of our clients with a superior product. Ultimately, we want to be to the leading providers in the field, on both sides of the Irish Sea and beyond.”
Since launching the company in May 2015, StudyBundles has made encouraging progress.
“We have three high-profile customers in the University of Limerick, Maynooth University and Letterkenny IT,” Sweeney explained.
“As well as generating revenues with these early customers, we have steadily built up our base of potential new customers, both in the UK and Ireland. We are confident about converting a good number of these into full clients.”
“The deployment is going really well. Our original design now seems quite rudimentary when we compare it with the latest version; the power and versatility of the technology is remarkable. From the very beginning we wanted something which could be customised for each client. It’s reassuring and exciting in equal measure to see how achievable this is.
“We are currently undergoing our first round of investment and secured funding through Enterprise Ireland’s national Competitive Start-up Fund (CSF) in November 2015. Naturally, we are exploring other investment opportunities. An encouraging sign is that when we meet with potential investors, they quickly understand our idea and can see the niche in the market.
“Overall, it’s amazing to think how far we have come in the space of a year.”
Determining product market fit
Sweeney explained that determining product-market fit has been a big challenge but they are confident they have now overcome it.
“Getting out and meeting with clients has given us a clear understanding of their problems. In turn, this has helped us to develop the app. One of the key things we have learned is that it has to be versatile; our clients have their own particular needs and the great thing is that we are able to adapt our product accordingly.”
Sweeney said that Ireland’s start-up scene is an exciting space to be in at the moment, particularly with the proliferation of new companies, start-up events organised under the banner of the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme and the different networking events on offer.
“There’s a lot of creative energy out there, a willingness to explore now ideas and a readiness to embrace technology.
“The Innovation Centre in Sligo is a great place to work. There’s a real spirit of camaraderie, mutual support and willingness to share ideas. It can be a nerve-racking experience at times so it is always helpful to touch base with like-minded people.
“If you are scratching your head about how to do something, invariably the solution can be found not too far away.”
Sweeney’s advice for fellow entrepreneurs is to make full use of the start-up resources and support programme on offer.
“Tap into the start-up network as there is a refreshing willingness to share experiences; and, whenever possible, provide mutual support and encouragement to like-minded people.”