Wroclaw's startup scene has been on the up for some time, especially thanks to events such as Tech Saturdays, which has been attracting innovators and thinkers for well over a year now. Looking to ride on the back of the city's new found entrepreneurial spirit are Jack Thompson and Alex Botez, who have ambitious plans to revolutionise the way people choose a teacher or a language school.
The duo, who are to run their business from the heart of Wroclaw, will launch their new website needaschool.com at the start of August. If all goes well, the new enterprise could completely change the way people make decisions on where to learn foreign languages – in much the same way that booking.com did for hotels.
To find out more about the website and the challenges Jack and Alex will have to overcome to make the business a success, we caught up with them both for an exclusive Wroclaw Uncut interview:
Hi guys, could you tell us a little bit about needaschool.com?
Well, basically it is an international price comparison website for language schools – one that works in a similar way to booking.com. The site allows its users to look for both language schools and private tutors in their local area, wherever they are in the world.
What is the central concept behind it?
The plan is to make it as easy as possible for people to search for the school or tutor that best suits them, whatever their priorities are. Using the website's search filters you can find the best teacher or school that meets your preferences, whether that be price, location, ratings, willingness to travel, or indeed many other criteria. Just like on other price comparison websites, you can also look at all the comments and make an informed choice about which school or teacher.
One of other things we seek to achieve with the site is to boost the profiles of a city's best language schools and private tutors, rather than those who simply enjoy the biggest marketing budgets. From my first hand experience of teaching in Wroclaw and working in the education industry, the most highly marketed schools or tutors are by no means always the best. The same is true when it comes to price. So with that in mind, there is real value in the concept of sharing opinions and justifying why one should or shouldn't choose a particular option.
Why have you chosen to set up and run the business here in Wroclaw?
Well firstly, we are both established here after living in the city for at least three years. During this time we've learnt quite a lot about the market here and also about the education sector, where we hope to use our experience to our advantage.
There's also a feeling that the city is growing, with a lot of international companies coming in and creating jobs for people. A lot has gone on development wise over the last few years, yet it still feels like the city is at the beginning of this journey – so it's exciting to be part of it.
Yes, I'd agree with Alex there. Also, Wroclaw's position in the heart of Europe was another important factor; especially with two thriving European cities such as Prague and Berlin just a few hours away. It's a big market as both those capitals attract a large amount of students, most of whom will be looking to improve their language skills. While we have plans to expand the website on a global scale, we do want to start by having a strong presence on the European continent first. I believe Wroclaw gives us the ideal launchpad to be able to do that.
As Alex also mentioned, the city is growing rapidly and there is a lot of international talent coming to work in Wroclaw too. It's a city that looks to have a very promising future.
As someone who has done a bit of foreign language teaching, I have to say I'm intrigued at the option to have a profile on the website. What will it allow teachers to do?
Any tutor, regardless of their skill or experience, can set up a profile on the website – giving them a platform just like the language schools. On their profile they can then add information about themselves, including their qualifications, experience, proficiency in various languages and the skill-sets they have.
A key advantage for teachers is that as the website expands and goes global, teachers will be able to move abroad and immediately apply for jobs or advertise their services to students. So if you are moving to Barcelona, all you need to do is edit your profile and all your positive ratings and comments will still apply.
It's also important to point out here that the more comments and ratings a teacher has, the more prominent their profile will be. It is not simply enough just to have two rave reviews to shoot up to the top of the page. This should yield better results for anyone searching for a quality private tutor.
We also plan to introduce new features that will bring schools and teachers closer to together. In time the website will allow schools to easily recruit the quality of teachers they need. Likewise teachers looking for work will be able to quickly and effortlesly let schools know about their availability. The basic idea is to make life easier for everyone.
Clearly, there is some competition for the crown of the best language school price comparison website. How are you going to give yourselves the edge and come out on top?
Well for a start, we will certainly have to invest heavily in marketing and we aim to launch a big nationwide campaign soon.
That is not the only thing though – we need the site to truly set itself apart from the competition. Ease of use, ease of access and simple fresh colours – these are things people look for and we have done a lot make sure our website has all those characteristics. A lot of the competition are still using layouts that are heavily text based and not exactly easy on the eye. With needaschool.com, you'll literally just be a few clicks away from the finding the course you need.
The marketing is obviously important but it's also crucial to get the schools on board. It's amazing just how many of them there in this city alone. After some time living and working here I was aware of around 50 language schools. However in just the last couple of months I've found another 200 language schools while doing my research. Many of those are small businesses that could certainly use the website to reach out to a new audience.
And how can the website be of use to some of those lesser known schools?
The website will create a level playing field that allows the small fish to compete with the big fish. It's not the name that counts, but rather the quality of the feedback that will determine who is higher in the rankings. This gives everyone who offers a good service the chance to be competitive.
While seconding Alex's comments, I think it's also important to say that needaschool.com is not only there to attract students. The website is also a tool that can convince students to continue having lessons at their current school. By keeping track of the feedback, those students (or their parents) will be able to see if their current school is still the best option for them.
What about the teachers who sign up to the service. How can they get started?
Once you've created your profile, you can of course share it to get the word out. It will be accessible to everyone – meaning that companies and private clients can easily bring it up and read it on any device. To that profile you can not only add photos, but also a video message to sell yourself and let people know about you and your passion for teaching. Obviously as the website grows those who have got on board first will be in a good position.
Thanks for talking to us guys – all the best with the website!
Would you use a language school comparison website? Feel free to air your views via the comments section below: