In partnership with EduGrowth, EdTechX hosted the Australian Ecosystem event in Sydney. Hosted to a crowded Tank Steam Labs, the event showcased the six companies, who pitched for the chance to represent Australia in the 2nd Global Startup Super League. Ben Hallett, Co-Founder and CEO of Vygo, was crowned the winner. We spoke with him this week to learn about their product and plans for 2020…
What inspired you to launch Vygo?
My co-founders and I were inspired to launch Vygo after we witnessed first hand the power of peer support inside of our home university, The University of Queensland. We were mentors and tutors inside of UQ’s refugee mentoring program and the program had a profound effect on both us and the students. At the same time, it was clear that providing personalised and modern support to every student at scale was a challenge for higher education providers globally. Fast-forwarding to now, we’re grateful to now work with students and institutions around the world and witness transformations every day.
What do you want everyone to know about Vygo?
I’d like everyone to know how deeply committed and passionate our team is about championing students. We’re driven by our mission and won’t slow down until we have achieved it.
What are your goals for the next year?
2020 will be an exciting year for Vygo. We’re midway through raising an investment round, we’ll be partnering with more institutions globally, doubling our team size and taking our platform to a completely new level.
This year we’ve also launched Stage 1 of our social initiative “TheMentor.Academy”. We’ve partnered with academics from leading institutions around the world on a mission to create the world’s best online student mentor training course, make it publicly available for free and training 100,000 future leaders with it. We’re making the public announcement about our academic partners in a few weeks so keep an eye out!
What has been the hardest thing about getting Vygo off the ground?
Similar to most EdTech startups, one of our hardest tasks was gaining our first university partner. Once we had our first partner, bringing on others became much easier. We’re really grateful for our initial partners who believed in our vision and helped us carve out the product. We’re also really thankful for EdTech industry bodies and champions such as EduGrowth (Australia), JISC (UK), Emerge Education (UK), GSV (US) and EdTechX, these groups play an essential role in bringing EdTech and education providers together and they have certainly helped us.
If you could go back to the day you started, what would you have done differently?
I’ve come to really appreciate the value of hiring in industry specialists and appointing advisors. In hindsight, I would have told myself to begin that process six months earlier than we did.
What has the response been like since winning EdTechX Sydney?
We’ve had a great response since the event. In fact, I’m currently on a plane on my way to meet a university who was in the crowd and want to get moving on a partnership! We’re also really excited about the London event. The UK is a big focus for us this year. We have a great UK partner, Coventry University, and I’m excited to share our partnership story at the London event.
How has starting Vygo in Australia helped you? What separates this ecosystem from others?
Australia has some of the largest universities and most prestigious universities in the world with very high standards. As a result, we had to have a robust product from day one.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
I strongly recommend connecting into the EdTech industry bodies and champions I mentioned above as early as possible. I’d also strongly recommend only working on a mission that you care deeply about.
What do you think will be the next big trend in EdTech?
I am obviously biased, but I wholeheartedly believe that we’ll start to hear “peer support” more and more at conferences over the coming years.
Ben Hallett will be pitching in the 2nd Annual Global Super League Competition at EdTechX 2020. You can connect with him at the summit via EdTechXConnect, and follow Vygos story on twitter: @vygoapp