There's no doubt that the EdTech sector has boomed with mobile devices becoming more readily available in classrooms and outside of lessons. EdTech startup Zzish has been one company that saw the opportunity and jumped at the chance to create apps that they felt were much needed. In the run up to exhibiting at Apps World London 2016 we managed to get an exclusive interview with Founder & CEO of Zzish, Charles Wiles.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your position with the company?
I'm the founder and CEO. Previously I was Google's first Product Manager hired outside the USA and led a small team that helped build the first version of the Android operating system.
To what extent do you believe EdTech provides a growth opportunity for app developers?
The global market for education software is $165b which is higher than the global market for video games at $130b. On Apple and Google app stores education apps are lagging games, but education is still the second largest category after games with more than 200,000 apps. We believe that in due course it might even surpass games as the largest category!
How important is creating a balance between UX and UI is in EdTech?
UX and UI are becoming as important in every category to the extent that they can be the difference between success and failure. UX continues to be a very challenging area of design and particularly so in the educational space and for teachers. Historically teachers have been given very poor user experiences and user interfaces as historical success in this sector has been dependent on having the best direct sales force and the quality of the product a secondary factor. As distribution and access to teachers continue to become easier, democratised by the app stores, teachers are starting to choose the apps that look and feel the best, just as consumers do.
To what extent do you believe the needs of students should become before making a profit in EdTech?
We believe that creating educational applications that can have a real impact on education costs a lot of money and that the best way to raise the investment necessary is through a profit making business. We also believe that the discipline of charging for educational software ensures that companies create software that is truly useful. So essentially we believe that a vibrant commercial sector with profit-making companies is the best way to drive innovation and progress in EdTech.
What are the key strengths you look for in a startup before investing?
I look for five things in a startup before investing and the first three are all "team". A good team is more important than a good idea. First most ideas, for one reason or another, don't work and a good team will be able to pivot and explore a new idea. Second, most ideas have their time, so that even when an idea works, it is likely there are three or four other companies doing the same thing at the same time and the winner is usually the best team. So having a good team is super important.
How can a brand continuously engage with their audience through mobile without becoming repetitive?
Engaging an audience is about delivering interesting and original content or experience and that takes creative effort to do continuously. So the key to not being repetitive is simply not to be repetitive! One good way to not be repetitive is to build systems with user generated content. For example, at one extreme, Facebook remains fresh simply because all the content in Facebook is user generated.
Which mobile trends are really exciting you for this year and into the future?
We get excited by the continual lowering of the price for high-quality tablets and smartphones, for example, Amazon's Kindle. This continues to open up educational experiences to people around the world who previously had no access to education. At Zzish, we believe our mission will be complete when a five-year-old child in the Philippines, for example, can pick up a smartphone and 20 years later become a surgeon if they have the desire and ability to learn.
Who are you looking forward to meeting at Apps World?
We're looking forward to meeting developers who want to build fun new educational applications to educate children and want to plug their apps into the Zzish teacher dashboards and use the Zzish quiz content in their apps. We've created our 3D space shooter app as an example of the sort of experiences you can create when you combine Unity and Zzish.
Which topics do you expect to dominate at this year’s Apps World?
I am particularly interested in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. These are the hot topics this year.