Our Start-up of the Week is TeachKloud, a Cork company creating management and compliance software for early-childhood services.
TeachKloud was founded by Wendy Oke, who identified that there was a significant gap in the software market while she was doing a PhD in early-childhood education.
Oke took to LinkedIn to voice her frustration at the lack of support available to early-childhood teachers, particularly when it came to preparing preschools and crèches for educational and safety inspections. The post received a lot of attention, so much, in fact, that an angel investor decided to give Oke €55,000 to solve the problem she was faced with.
“Early-childhood teachers spend up to 30 additional hours on paperwork each week. In Ireland, there are over 500 different regulations that an early-childhood service can be inspected on without notice,” Oke told Siliconrepublic.com.
With 30 hours of paperwork to do each week, she added, it’s not unusual for teachers and other staff to take this kind of work home with them.
‘More than just management software’
In a bid to resolve such an issue, Oke has developed a solution for early-childhood services that uses cloud technology, machine learning and an innovative UX design to suggest educational and safety goals that are dependent on the age, stage and needs of each child.
The TeachKloud platform provides educators with tools to see daily, weekly, monthly and annual attendance insights, which is also useful for parents and inspectors. As well as this, the platform provides educators with a place to log developmental observations and emerging interests, and set up waiting lists, make plans, broadcast messages to parents and prepare for GDPR audits.
“The ultimate goal is to be in early-childhood services around the world, improving preschools’ quality of practice and compliance with regulations. Personally, I want to make an impact in children’s and teachers’ lives by giving them the tools they need to succeed,” Oke said.
“When we invest in children’s education and wellbeing, the returns to society are far-reaching. For example, economists estimate that for every €1 invested in quality early-childhood education, a return of €7 is made to the benefits for our society.
“TeachKloud is more than just management software. It’s about keeping children happy, healthy and safe during the most important years of life.”
What’s next for TeachKloud?
After TeachKloud was conceived, Oke said it was difficult to explain the value of the platform to people working outside of the industry.
“Less than 20 years ago, you could open an early-childhood service without any qualifications, Garda vetting, and you could even smoke in the same room as schoolchildren,” she said.
“Although early childhood regulations have risen by more than 200pc since then, if you are not a parent of a young child or early-childhood educator, it may be hard to understand how demanding it is to manage an early-childhood service.”
In spite of this barrier, the start-up has already secured customers in Ireland and plans to launch in the UK early this year. Oke said that she is currently conducting research on the Australian and US markets, with a view to expand beyond Europe in the near future.
“We have just raised €750,000 from investors such as Frontline and Enterprise Ireland, which will aid in rapidly expanding the team in Ireland.
“Although we just raised, I’m always looking to connect with angel investors and VCs who can help us dominate the early-childhood market. We will be raising again within the next eight months.”
Oke added that as a sole founder, she did almost everything herself until a couple of weeks ago when the start-up began hiring. “It can be a lonely road but I have an amazing family and mentors who are constantly supporting me,” she said. “As a sole founder, it’s important to get the right people behind you early on.”
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