The Australian edutech market is growing steadily, with local startups keen to buy into the multi-billion dollar sector for which Australia is internationally renowned.
One startup looking to make headway in the sector, and also make it easier for more to join in, is Sydney’s Cogniss, which has created an app-building platform focused on educational and behavioural technology; developers can tap into the platform’s in-built game and app design and research to create their own solutions.
Founder Leon Young said the platform was created within educational games company 2and2, which itself was formed around 2004.
While the solutions the team built won awards across the world, Young said they routinely encountered the same problem: they were time consuming, complex, and expensive to create.
Realising they could save clients time and money by offering them the tools and expertise they would need to create their own solutions through an app-building platform, the journey to building Cogniss began, starting with the creation of a product in 2014 called Koala Academy, aimed at the Chinese market.
A proof of concept for learning memory-based content, 2and2 ran user testing for the product through Tongji University in Shanghai.
“Its positive reception confirmed that a social, game-based platform could be powerful and flexible enough to address virtually any learning or behavioural challenge. This led to the birth of Cogniss,” Young explained.
As Young explained it, Cogniss is a platform and infrastructure for “more effective learning and behaviour change”.
The company looks to make app creation faster, easier, and more affordable; in combining neuropsychology, big data, and adaptive game-based mechanics, Young said, the platform looks to empower businesses, educators, non-profits, and others in the space who may not have the tech skills to create solutions for various audiences.
The platform is the “distillation”, Young said, of more than a decade of experience in developing game- and app-based solutions and seeing what works best.
“By building the most common, in-demand learning functionalities we were often building for clients directly into the platform’s core, Cogniss removes the technical hassle of developing sophisticated learning or behaviour change apps, freeing app owners to focus on creating great content and turn analytical insights into actionable strategies,” he explained.
Those learning functionalities include the platform’s core feature, the ‘Cognission Engine’, a machine learning algorithm designed according to neuropsychological techniques and neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to new experiences.
According to Young, this algorithm monitors user behaviour and in response, levels the delivery of new information, maximising long-term memory retention and induces a state of flow, resulting in effective learning.
The platform also includes “psychologically sound incentive systems”, and Cogniss Insights, which captures data to give app owners insight into the behaviours of users.
An app can be built by any ‘certified’ Cogniss developer, though the 2and2 business can work with clients to build for them.
Though now settled, the company faced a number of challenges in getting Cogniss off the ground; though its vision was clear, Young said the pivoting of a services-based business to a product-based business was difficult.
“The underlying problem we struggled with is one often experienced by service businesses attempting to pivot to products; the service business becomes a millstone. Successful service businesses end up with large workforces, and therefore large fixed costs,” Young explained.
“The owner becomes a slave to feeding the beast, having to ensure there is always sufficient income to cover monthly costs. This hinders strategic focus on pursuing the product business.”
The company sought to solve these challenges by honing in on its core value proposition: creating a product, with a mission, that was already appealing to its existing customer base, and bringing on new team members who were aligned with this mission.
Young acknowledged the growing competition in the sectors Cogniss works across, from healthtech to edutech and behaviour-focused technology, however he believes the Cogniss solution is one of the few to bring together all the different features into one platform.
“For example, most flashcard platforms facilitate a high volume of shareable content, but demonstrate only rudimentary game mechanics. Many eLearning platforms employ cognitive principles, but lack gamified or rewards-based recognition. DIY app builders are low cost, but suffer from little education design,” he said.
With this in mind, the company’s target market ranges, from startups to educational institutions, businesses, government agencies, and researchers who want to build educational or behaviour change apps, or collect data on educational outcomes or behaviours.
The company is currently rolling out a pricing system for the Cogniss platform. Along with a flat fee for developing an app, Cogniss ‘Personal’ will allow users to create and share educational content, ‘Plus’ will allow customers to create and publish their own app at a low cost, with little customisation, and ‘Premium’ will offer customers a full range of services and customisation.
Two apps have been released on the Cogniss platform so far: STEM Explorer, an app developed in partnership with startup apptEDUde looking to minimise learning loss for primary school kids during school holidays; and Cogniss Brain Age, developed with healthcare company soho Flordis International to look at the efficacy of brain ageing interventions.
The startup stated projects in its pipeline span a range of topics, from water safety to corporate sustainability, financial literacy, and sports mentorship.
To keep growing, Young said Cogniss will be working further on its software development kit (SDK) to make it easier for external developers to build on Cogniss. It also aims to create a client support portal and central content management system (CMS) to allow content creators to add app content.
International expansion is also on the cards, with Cogniss signing on its first overseas integration partner in Latin America.
Image: the Cogniss team. Source: Supplied.