Founders Journal, Michael & Jarrod — StudySpy.

About the Founders.

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Michael: An expert in customer acquisition and all things digital, Michael is passionate about startups, and founded the team that won the 2013 Innes48 Startup Competition — the largest of its kind in New Zealand. Michael is a keen linguist and has studied German, Spanish, and Te Reo Māori.

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Jarrod: A full-stack developer, Jarrod is passionate about applying his technical skills to problems that affect societies around the globe. Jarrod is also a tech linguist and has studied C#, JavaScript, and SQL.

Let’s start with the pitch — give us a quick rundown on what StudySpy is? 

StudySpy is a course comparison site that helps prospective students make one of the biggest decisions of their life. StudySpy aggregates tertiary study information from across Ministry of Education, NZQA, Careers NZ, Tertiary Education Commission and Universities NZ. We display key information on tertiary study like price, duration, level and employment outcomes like how many grads get a job and how much they earn. Before StudySpy, not only was this information fragmented, it was also very inaccurate and out of date, that’s why we enable education providers to edit their information and ensure that information on StudySpy is the most up-to-date, accurate and relevant source of information on tertiary programmes in Aotearoa.

How did you get started with StudySpy? Why did you decide to launch this business?

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StudySpy came out of the 2015/2016 Victoria Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. The original concept was an online education agency for international students but upon testing assumptions and user feedback, we realised that the problem that we were aiming to solve — a lack of transparent information on study options — could be better solved by an online tool rather than a team of agents. Upon testing the tool for students, we were surprised to realise that domestic students were also getting huge value out of the site and this is where StudySpy was born.

How long has StudySpy been operating?

StudySpy was in development for 2 years, launching on 23rd February 2018 at the BizDojo. In just the first month, StudySpy received a huge response and on-boarded education providers across every type of provider in New Zealand: Universities, Polytechnics, Private Training Establishments, Industry Training Organisations and Wānanga. StudySpy is now even recommended by Careers NZ — The NZ Government career platform.

It’s common knowledge startups go through their ups and downs! To date what’s been the biggest learning curve?

“Never stop validating, never stop testing and allow your business development the freedom and flexibility to be user lead.” 

Always test your assumptions and be persistent in your validation. Don’t rush the business model. Although it took us 2 years of pre-launch work while we bootstrapped, if we had taken early investment and chased the original business, the online education agency, we would have failed. Never stop validating, never stop testing and allow your business development the freedom and flexibility to be user lead. If you build something truly useful and unique to your users, the rest will sort itself out.

We’re stoked to have you part of Collison Labs, what do you hope to get out of the programme?

I think one of the most exciting things about Collision Labs is being in the space around businesses on the same journey and sharing learnings and leaning on each other. The journey is really a roller coaster ride, it’s mentally and physically exhausting and it’s hard for non-startup folk to get that. Sharing the journey and supporting each other is massively beneficial, especially in the stage that the Collision Labs businesses are in.

Anything you’d like to add?

I think StudySpy is really a testament to the bootstrapping model. I was so against bootstrapping and was eager to bring on investment after validation and accelerate the business. Had we done that, we would not be where we are today, the money would have burned out because we had the wrong solution to the problem. Bootstrapping (sometimes frustratingly) forces you to slow down, validate, test and truly understand your core value proposition. With such limited resources, you have no choice but to understand what a raw MVP looks like and drive towards it. 

Bootstrapping offers your team the ability to be sustainable and the rest is about perseverance.