This week’s editor’s pick is PaperVideo, who won our EdTechX Ecosystem event in South Africa. Since winning the pitching competition in Cape Town, they qualified to join us in London, for EdTechX 2019 to pitch in the Global Startup Super League.
We sat down with Chris Mills, Co-Founder and Director of PaperVideo to find out a little more about what they have been working on…
What was the inspiration behind starting PaperVideo?
In 2013 I was working through a physics problem. I was stuck and had to search YouTube for the right video to assist me. After 30 min, I found a good video and managed to solve the problem. The next thought that followed was, “If the right video was out there, why did I need to spend so long finding it. In fact, the web is so full of good educational content, why are students still always struggling to find the right video for whatever they are stuck on?”. I realised that contextual alignment was the issue. People were thinking about creating educational material outside of coursework contexts. Imagine how powerful it would be if the exact video that a student needed were embedded in the context in which they were already learning… at every point they could possibly get stuck!
Tell us more a little more about the product?
We create exam papers and lesson plans in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Accounting (for Grades 8 to 12) that have a lesson video, taught by an engaging & knowledgeable teacher, for each and every question or topic. In other words, when a student is working through our past exam papers and comes across a topic or question which they cannot understand, the simply scan/enter the code next to the question or topic (using our app on any Android device or Windows computer) and they will be taken directly to an in-depth lesson by one of our rigorously selected teachers, showing them how to go through the question or topic step by step. We also provide microSD cards that integrate with our app, allowing for fully offline video access.
What is the next step for PaperVideo?
Expansion. Paper Video is at the scale phase now. We have developed, tested and proven the market viability of our resources. We have a strong repeat customer base and positive feedback from over 100 schools across South Africa. Wheres the first 5 years of Paper Video have been very product-focused, we are now ready to move into a business growth phase. We are confident that Paper Video will be a household name in South Africa by its 10th birthday.
What do you think has been the hardest thing about getting PaperVideo off the ground?
Learning to adapt to market perception. This is a broad lesson that could apply to almost any product or service. As teachers, we were convinced of the value of our resources from day one. It wasn’t even questioned much and having other people question it felt like a lapse of judgement on their part. However, with time, we have come to appreciate that the value we see in the resources is based on an intimate understanding of how they work and the context in which they are intended to be used. It is not fair to expect someone who has had 5 minutes of exposure to our resources to see them through the same lens that we do. In short, our deep understanding of our own product created a divide between us and understanding our market. We are now aware of this and are already adapting our approach to spreading the word about Paper Video.
Who should use PaperVideo?
Paper Video has from day one been intended for all South African students (until we expand to other countries). We wanted to create a resource and platform that was both competitive with all other platforms on the market, but also accessible to the extent that no South African student would be excluded from using it. This later point is why we will always make a portion of our resources available for free access, as well as why we have invested in the extensive development and testing of our offline solutions.
How does PaperVideo improve learning opportunities and accessibility?
Paper Video offers a viable alternative to a teacher or personal tutor. These represent two distinct issues faced by many South African students. Many learners simply don’t have access to a teacher, in any effective sense of the word, while an issue faced by those who are more fortunate is the high cost of private tutors in the event that they are struggling and need extra help. The Paper Video resources offer a solution to both of these two very different problems.
What piece of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
A lot of entrepreneurs know to focus on an MVP (minimum viable product) at first. It makes sense to stay focused and learn in the early days. My advice would be to not move on from your MVP too early. Product or service confirmation can come at you very quickly once your MVP has benefited from some exposure. This may trigger you to jump the gun and role out your post MVP plan too soon. This is a mistake we made at Paper Video. Wring as much out of your MVP as you can. Market the heck out of it, build our team around it, perfect it, and only then move onto the rest of your plan.
What has the response been like since winning EdTechX Africa Ecosystem Event in South Africa?
Our fellow South Africans have been excited and interested to hear about our success and the awesome opportunity we had to compete against the 27 other finalists from around the world at the Global Startup Super League at EdTechXEurope 2019. The story was covered in several local newspapers, and national radio stations and the pride expressed by parents and interested parties has been humbling and encouraging!
How has starting PaperVideo in South Africa helped you? What separates this ecosystem from others?
The education landscape in South Africa is in a desperate state. We knew this before starting PaperVideo and came to see that it was even worse than what we had previously thought. Due to the lack of support and infrastructure available to South African students, the impact that we have is much greater. The number of lives that we have changed through our interventions has been inspiring to us and is the single biggest factor that keeps us motivated.