Simon started work on DigiVue back in 2016 when approached to address attendance and engagement issues. Spotting struggling students early is vital to have a positive impact on their education. We aim to provide analysis of behavioural change and identify students at risk of quitting their course, or at risk of mental health conditions. Having prototyped the attendance recording and analysis for two years, DigiVue is now moving on to engagement. Increasing engagement within teaching sessions will increase the value in attending (for the student) and in interaction for both staff and student. DigiVue is still in the startup phase but is now seeking grant investment to prepare the product for market, and to develop artificial intelligence to review the data and spotlight any student showing signs of disengagement.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Simon has worked in IT for 20+ years, creating a variety of complex systems from Horse Passports to Transplant Monitoring. He did not wake up one morning deciding to become an entrepreneur but evolved into this role having started work on this project. The challenge of bringing a product to market is one of the non technical reasons motivating Simon and the team.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is a fast paced journey, solving real problems and real needs both now and future anticipated.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
The first sign was a client asking for the product, rather than self pushed. It was addressing a real need, and with 6% of students dropping out in their first year, there is a need.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Personable – must talk to people to advance the project / get funding
Technical – whether IT or not, one must understand the product and it must work.
Good gut – to be able to decide on which routes to focus on, and to make good decisions as there are many to make.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Challenge of making it work and building the team.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
It is the small and frequent heroes which truly inspire. For example, the boy who saved his 3 year old sister from the dangerous dog and required numerous stitches.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
Not sure in that case there is much to discuss! There is an obvious family bond and such an example of self sacrifice – I think there is a silent sense of understanding with an overwhelming sense of awe.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Having feedback saying “it just works” – the simple nature of the app and the no complexity response were a dream.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Not bringing in the right people sooner. We’ve got more done in the last 2 months than in 2 years, at least in terms of the business development side of things.
How have you funded your ideas?
Self funded so far, with a little award money. Mainly in time and development, but looking to get investment now and accelerate the growth.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Looking at the Innovate UK Smart Grant, but I know there are others which may also be suitable.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
There is a phenomenal support available in the area, from the universities. Though on the same note, it can be daunting to know all the options and to know what is best.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would bring them to the innovation hubs. I have used the Oxford Brookes ones with Enterprise Support.
Any last words of advice?
Don’t leave forms to the last minute! They always are more complex than you think they will be, irrespective of how much other great progress is made!