This week’s Business Focus is with Gareth Davies of Frog Education, which is based at Dean Clough in Halifax.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
Both myself and Frog’s co-founder, Tariq Isa, had reached a point in our professional lives where things felt hollow and meaningless. We both wanted to do something that made a difference, so we decided to give it a go. We both quit our respective careers before we even knew what we were going to do together. I’m not suggesting this is a great idea though! In short, life was unfulfilling. We wanted more.
What is your business motto?
To teach every child as if they’re the only child. Imagine if teachers only taught one child each: they’d give them more time, more focus, and they’d understand exactly where they need help and support. We know that with the right technology
providing insights and tools that teachers can do this for a whole class of children.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
Make sure it’s in an area that you’re passionate about. It’s hard work and it takes over your life, and if you don’t allow it to do this, you aren’t likely to succeed. Alarm bells should be ringing if you’re just doing it to make money, and if you’re doing it to get a better work / life balance, you’re misunderstanding what’s involved.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?
Lack of experience. Never done this before and the breadth of day to day skills needed ranges from finance and management, to sales and marketing, building customer services; initially you need to learn everything yourself. Most important though, is understanding your customers’ needs, as well if not better than they do.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?
The ability to do what inspires us. We all make choices every day, and running your own business enables you to make the choices that personally inspire you, both as an individual and as a group of like-minded people.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?
No down time. A holiday isn’t a holiday, it’s just a different location. Many people that run their own business will tell you that Christmas is the only time they actually switch off, because they know that everyone else is off, too.
Which business figure do you most admire and why?
Steve Jobs. He was able, time after time to create his own compelling vision and then to make it happen, completely turning industries upside down in the process. Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Elon Musk have that same quality.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
We are very proud that our technology is helping every child in all of Malaysia’s 10,000 schools. We are very proud of a recent opportunity to build a Facebook for Education for all the families and schools in Denmark. We are, of course, extremely proud of the work that we do in England, our showcase for all the interest we get from abroad. But what achievement are we proudest of? The next one!
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
Frog is about software for improving learning and for building communities. We have spent many years providing our solutions to individual schools, but now governments are working with Frog, providing our technology to all of their schools, with millions of users. We are also now working with colleges, charities, utilities and businesses. We are fast becoming a global platform business; providing software that allows others to build their own education systems
and communities on top of our platform.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?
A pill that every child could take that would make them feel like they had value in the world and that they could make a difference. A lack of self-esteem and self-confidence is far more damaging than any lack of academic achievement.
Of course, a child’s lack of belief in themselves is always a symptom of their parents and their school’s belief in them, it is never the child’s fault. We are all responsible for making sure we bring our children up with belief and purpose and not with excuses.
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?
Frog. Obviously. If you want to make a difference to human beings as individuals, or society itself, all over the world, then there is no better way to do that than through education; and we are helping children in 26 countries. Not many people can go home at night knowing that they are positively impacting children’s life chances in that way on such a large scale. It is an honour for all of us at Frog to have this purpose.