In 2011 computer science graduate and former-teacher Naimish Gohil finally gave up his job to launch Show My Homework, a piece of software to help teachers better keep track of student's homework. Now he has his sights set firmly on building a platform of solutions to the biggest technology issues within British schools under a new company umbrella: Satchel.
Naimish Gohil studied computer science at Brunel University but fell into teaching after graduating in 2007. It was here that he saw a plethora of technology issues across the school and decided to do something about it, spending his mornings and evenings coding a piece of software for managing homework.
Speaking to Techworld over the phone, the now CEO and founder of edtech startup Satchel, Gohil explained that during his time as an assistant head teacher at a school in his native West London he found that "a lot of procurement was done centrally at the local authority level and we had this awful tech."
Teachers at the school were expected to use a central learning platform that was too complicated to use, even for the IT-savvy Gohil. "It was a typical example of tech being procured where no one thought about how it is going to be used inside a classroom or used by someone in the trenches teaching classes," Gohil said.
The original product, launched in 2011, aims to give teachers a single platform for tracking homework, with handy reports, instant access to online resources and all student's homework in one place. Crucially, the app also gives parents total visibility of their child's homework.
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) product is now in more than 1500 schools globally, and raised £2.4 million in funding from venture capital firm Local Globe in January 2017.
Instead of more funding Gohil is focused on "getting the business within the next 12-18 months to reach sustainable profitability and significantly increase revenue to existing schools", he said.
In order to get there Gohil rebranded the company from Show My Homework to Satchel, after reaching "a point where we realised that if we wanted to increase revenue per customer and reach new customers we needed a brand that reflected where we are as a company and that meant being less prescriptive, so that's where we came up with Satchel," he said.
Since then the company has launched Seating, for designing and optimising seat plans; a content portal through a major partnership with textbook maker Collins; and Kudos, a beta product designed as an online portal for giving and tracking praise for students.
A big part of the future roadmap for Satchel is talking to teachers about specific pain points, Gohil says. So essentially applying an intuitive, centralised solution like Show My Homework but to an issue like timetabling, for example.
"I think from a tech perspective there is too much [in schools] and very little coherent frameworks or guidance on how tech should be used," Gohil said.
"So you end up with lots of software that does the same thing or sit under different data agreements or overlap in terms of feature sets because schools move from one to another and make decisions without a strong IT vision, leading to ad hoc solutions."
Gohil says that Satchel doesn't have ambitions to be an all-in-one learning platform at this stage, something that the biggest company in the world is trying to do, instead focusing on "solving specific problems that senior leaders face", he said, while also partnering with other edtech companies that are solving other problems in the space.