Revision App is a leading mobile education brand in the UK, providing students with the educational content (flashcards and videos) that they will need throughout their 15 years of studying. This includes millions of exam prep notes and educational videos. The story of its development and the drive of its creators is an inspiring case study of young entrepreneurship, and a clear signal of where education is heading in the mobile century.
Revision App was developed by education Entrepreneur Jermaine Hagan and Technology Marketing Director Millie Zah. It was launched in late 2011 from Jermaine’s bedroom while he was still at university. The company is now headquartered in London and currently employs a staff of 10. Within six months following its launch, the app was number one educational app in the App Store and it has since built a user base of more than 1,200,000. Revision App was featured as Wired.co.uk’s “Startup of the week” on 6 September 2013. In November 2013 Jermaine was named Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Jermaine says that he got the idea for his business when he realised that the main obstacle to success for many students was not necessarily a lack of interest in the subject, but their poor exam results. This in turn was related to many of these students being time poor as they had to spend more than an hour a day commuting to and from school or college. He estimated that there were more than 55.8 million students in the UK and North America who were doing this for 195 days a year. Instead of using this valuable time fruitfully, they were usually just staring out of the window. They were carrying an oversized backpack full of books, but wasting their spare time because the material was not in a convenient form to be used during their commute.
As a result, he realised that the average student was losing 11,000 minutes of potential learning time. Jermaine decided that if he could unlock the potential in these lost hours, he might help these students to pass their exams. He also realised that all of these students carried a mobile phone or other mobile device with them. He therefore developed Revision App to allow students to learn anywhere, on the bus, on the train, simply using their mobile phone. The Revision App business model is based on allowing users to unlock additional video and text based educational premium content covering subjects from business studies to neuroscience.
Jermaine was driven to starting his own business when he realised that he valued the culture of a business more than just making money. Three days later he left his job and started Revision App. He prides himself on running a lean business machine, and is often astounded when people falsely think that he and his company colleagues lead a typical corporate lifestyle. It is this ability to keep costs down which has been a secret to the success of his startup, he says. Being able to bootstrap your business for as long as possible, while you get traction in the marketplace, (users or revenue) is one key lesson he would like to pass on to other young entrepreneurs, Jermaine says. “This will put you in a much stronger position when talking to potential investors.”
Of course, the company has faced its share of challenges. According to Jermaine, the most challenging time was August 2012, when the company had just come off the back of a great period of growth and popularity but struggled to realise that the product wasn’t as good as it should be. They decided they needed to go back to basics and spent six weeks asking students what they want, in what form, and from that research grew a new user interface, with video content, a directory of local tutors for backup and an overall improved user experience. The company is now facing a new type of challenge, and is focusing on realising the vision of building the Pearson Education of the mobile digital age. Jermaine realises that this type of pressure can be either positive or negative. “I am my biggest barrier to future success”, acknowledges Jermaine. “The sooner I come to terms with that; the more time I will have to overcome that barrier”.