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Business strategy

EdSmart’s founder on the lessons from their first 10 years of startup life

- May 23, 2024 3 MIN READ
David Eedle and Fiona Boyd in 2015
EdSmart cofounders David Eedle and Fiona Boyd in 2015
There are days when I wake up and wonder what we’ve done. Let’s start with our origin story.

Fiona Boyd and I were staring at a pile of consent forms for our three children on the kitchen counter. I was finishing up nearly five years of contracting for a SasS (Software-as-a-service) firm in San Francisco which had me commuting to the USA, sometimes spending weeks there.

However, that company was going through some changes, and it was time for me to move on, which meant unemployment was beckoning.

The SaaS product I had been working with—for which I was the original architect—was, at its heart, an online forms platform with workflows and notifications. That pile of paper forms seemed ripe for digitisation.

We registered the company on 21 May, 2014, with only a vague idea of what we might be building.

A small MVP attracted the attention of a couple of local schools and, after a few months, one or two of those schools sent out forms to their parents. But that really was the full scope of our intentions—replacing the paper forms exchanged between school and parents.

The EdSmart Team at EduTech 2022

Neither of us knew very much about schools. As parents, we’d troop into school for parent-teacher interviews and write cheques for school fees, but we had no insight into how schools worked or were administered. Suffice it to say, that’s changed!

I recall winning the StartUp Victoria pitch competition in August 2014.

We knew our presentation should highlight the traction and ‘impressive numbers’ achieved. So there was a slide in the deck that trumpeted how we had sent 6,800 forms to parents so far—and, heavens, were we proud!

For context, we sent 20 million forms in 2023. That 6,800 number is probably a minute or two of activity on the EdSmart platform nowadays.

Fast forward 10 years, and we now connect with the lives of more than one million people in Australia and overseas. Parents, students and school staff can all interact with the EdSmart platform. We’re contracted with every state school in South Australia.

We recently rolled out to all the Tasmanian state schools. We already have all the Catholic schools in Brisbane and Cairns, and soon will be used across Catholic schools in South Australia. Plus, some of the largest independent schools in the country are EdSmart customers.

Together, we’re contracted with around 1,400 schools.

We’re proud to be a part of the EdTech ecosystem in Australia. Many brilliant people work for companies like ours, and they’ve become firm friends and supporters over the years. There is a genuine spirit of innovation and inspiration among these firms to deliver positive solutions to the challenges experienced by schools today.

We know resourcing is difficult, and the sector struggles to find sufficient staff. Companies like EdSmart can reduce workload, reduce risk, save money and time, and positively impact school life and the wider school community.

Over the years, we’ve faced the inevitable challenges and undertaken much change in the business, with more to come. We have a team that embraces our company’s values and who we expect to work intentionally, valuing every minute and taking ownership of the work.

We’re committed to ongoing innovation, and our product roadmap is exciting. There is no intent to stand still and rest on our laurels. Technology is advancing apace. AI was just a twinkle in the eye 10 years ago.

Cloud hosting is ubiquitous today yet, in 2014, we had to delay our go-live date because Microsoft Azure hadn’t established Australian hosting facilities. Ten years ago, smartphones were still relatively new and expensive. Today, my 93-year-old mother answers the phone on her Apple Watch, and we all ask our AI-powered voice assistants to check the weather, find directions and add items to the shopping list.

Internally, we debate the user of the future. My youngest child finishes school this year, so EdSmart isn’t for me anymore. In 10 years, my children’s children will be starting school, and we need to ensure their parents are able to interact with EdSmart using the technology of the day—whether it’s mobile, voice or some other interface.

Our rewards are varied—the challenge of delivering at large scale, our impact on the lives of everyone in school communities, and the satisfaction of designing, building and deploying new technologies.

We’re grateful to everyone for this chance to make a difference. This includes our wonderful customers (spending time with staff in our schools is still my greatest pleasure) and our fantastic team spread across Australia and the world who, each day, work hard to realise the vision and support our customers and each other.

It has been a remarkable journey over the last 10 years. I am excited to embrace the next decade and everything it might bring.

EdSmart, Fiona Boyd and David Eedle

EdSmart cofounders Fiona Boyd and David Eedle celebrate 10 years in 2024

 

  • David Eedle is the cofounder and CEO of school paperwork digital solution EdSmart.