Teenagers play videogames. We make games to help teachers teach, and to help pupils learn.
- Brecon, United Kingdom
Most teenagers would rather play videogames than go to school. We make educational games to help teachers teach and to help students learn.
On our site, teachers pick a game for their students, and choose what that game should test - for example, cell structure or the Russian Revolution. Students progress by getting the material right - if they're not sure, they get told the answers, so that they can get it right next time. That material could be one of our pre-written sets (over 19,000 questions written to date), or a set created by the teacher herself. Completing the games earns the student 'Peeble Coins' to buy outfits, hairstyles etc, and their kitted-out avatars feature in the games themselves - it's the power of Farmville used for good rather than evil.
Our games are built so that the teacher can customize them to teach whatever they want the students to learn. Most importantly, they do all her marking for her - so the students aren't the only ones who start enjoying life a lot more.
When we were teachers, this is what we wished someone else would make.
As former teachers, we don’t think school is working.
We don’t think that it’s working for teachers and we don’t think that
it’s working for students. The students we taught needed to learn
facts - chemical formulae, French Verbs, times tables, and the like.
Yet, like many teachers, we were failing to make them want to do so.
And when we did, our reward was an endless pile of marking to do
We believe the students know that they ought to revise. Too often,
however, they don't. We’ve seen them become distracted and skittish at
the prospect, and go back to playing online games, and their future
suffers as a result.
We don't think that this needs to happen.
Substantial accomplishments to date
The site is live and in active use. Teachers all over the country set missions on PlayBrighter nearly every day, and students are probably changing their avatar outfits somewhere right now.
We believe we have made something people really love.
“These students are extremely difficult to please in my business class and this has really inspired them... so THANK YOU!” Secondary Teacher (Birmingham)
“I'm very impressed with students' responses so far! ‘It’s really addictive and great fun’, many pupils have told me. I’ve never seen my low ability Y9s so engrossed and responding so well with their French!” Secondary Teacher (Hull)
“The 12-year-olds really loved Billionaire! They wanted me to give them more missions, and then more...” Secondary Teacher (Sweden)
“The idea is brilliant as it kept some very difficult students occupied nearly all afternoon and the ones on the conspiracy section wanted to continue even after they should have gone home." Pupil Referral Unit Supervisor (Derbyshire)
“It would be fair to say that they loved it.” Independent School Teacher (Cheltenham)
“They loved it!” Special Educational Needs Teacher (Kent)
“Today I booked a computer room for their lesson and gave them the choice of bitesize, another games website, using resources on moodle, using playbrighter or using Edexcel's active learn. The result was about a 70-30 split in favour of playbrighter, with the remainder using active learn. They have all asked me to set more missions on more topics for them to continue over half term.” – Secondary teacher (Newport)
I plan on using your game next winter, and also with my daughters as they get older. I think it´s such a great idea." Secondary teacher (Iceland).
“I absolutely love it!!” – T., Year 11.
We aim to sell the site as a subscription package to schools, at approximately £5 per student per year. Schools have funding for ICT, and we feel that competitors are charging similar rates for products that only help with a single subject, rather than the multi-subject package which PlayBrighter would offer.
From the beginning, we have ensured that the content of the games is independent of the questions that they ask the student. We believe this makes us uniquely adaptable to curriculum variation - if we can help Harry with his History, we can also help Matilde with her Mathématiques, Zerafina with her Zooloģija and George with the Georgia state curriculum. So if we can validate our assumptions by selling to UK schools, we feel we can quickly scale up this model to worldwide proportions without the requirement of changes to the games.
Use of proceeds
Our monthly burn rate is usually under £4000, and we believe we can continue to keep our development costs at this level. We expect that 30k will be sufficient for us to keep developing and selling over the next 8 months without running out of money. Schools seem to like our product and want to buy it, but they move really, really, slowly - "the relevant meeting is in 3 months" slowly. Once we get past cash flow issues, and validate our assumptions in the UK, we hope to raise further funding and start scaling like mad, but to get the best terms, we would prefer to negotiate from a position of profitability. We believe this initial funding will enable us to do that.
Schools, initially in the UK and then later abroad. We see our principal market as secondary schools, as we believe the primary school market is heavily saturated with competing products, and between us we have experience teaching 11-16 year olds.
Characteristics of target market
Across UK state schools, the Government has spent over £3bn in the last 10 years to create an ICT infrastructure. Even after recent cuts, an average school's ICT spend remains at £64 per pupil, even excluding the wages of ICT teachers and technical staff.
The BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association) annual report (September 2011), states that by 2012/3 a majority of schools anticipate using ICT in more than 50% of their teaching time. The infrastructure is in position, as secondary schools now enjoy an average broadband speed of 31Mbps.
Another major trend is the proliferation of Academies and Free Schools - approximately 50% of English state secondary schools had converted to academies by 1st February 2011. This means that they would be no longer dependent on Local Education Authorities to make purchases for them - great news for any new entrant to the field, as we believe negotiations will be with individual heads looking to make the best decision for his or her school.
Finally, we believe that Government policy is also starting to lean in our direction. During his keynote speech at BETT, the Education Secretary stated that "games and interactive software can help pupils acquire complicated skills and rigorous knowledge in an engaging and enjoyable way". We see a tension in official policy between excitement about technology and a yearning for a return to the 'rigorous knowledge' of times tables, spellings, and historical dates. As an interactive, fun way of drilling hard facts, we believe that this an itch we're uniquely well positioned to scratch.
We currently promote the site to teachers through various channels. Exhibiting at education conventions enables us to meet teachers who are looking for new ideas - and such teachers can also be found online. We've also been featured in two education magazines (Teach Secondary and Education Technology).
Once we have a clearer idea of how the conversion funnel works, we intend to investigate Adwords purchases and other advertising spend.
In the longer term, we will look to secure the recommendation of GFLs. These 'Grids for Learning' are consortia of local authorities which provide broadband, educational content, and services to schools in their geographic region. If we can integrate our product into the content they provide, we believe we could sell across entire geographic regions. For example, we think that by adding our games to the London Grid for Learning's content would mean all London schools would be encouraged / pushed to buy that software as opposed to buying from competitors.
We believe we have two key advantages against current players in the market:
1) Our games are more engaging. The 11-16 market is underserved compared to the Primary School market, in large part because the kids in question are old enough to tell when they are being patronized. We think that our art is just leagues and leagues better than what the competition currently offers, and we're gameplay nerds - we feel that if it works for the kids, it'll help the teachers to help them learn.
2) Our games are easier to customize. Indeed, customization is their entire aim. We are of the opinion that this gives us a huge advantage against competitors using an 'our game teaches X' model, who must develop a new title for every topic that they wish to cover. With the huge variety of topics that students must learn, not just in the UK but all around the world, we believe that we can reach under-served educational markets long before they do.
As for future competitors, we understand there to be moderately large Network Effects in the field - LEAs tend only to recommend a single product in a given field, and schools who have made the time investment to source this kind of solution are unlikely to consider an alternative unless the present solution is clearly inadequate. We need to ensure that we're the first people to reach them with something really cool, which works for their subjects and their kids - if we do that, constantly expanding into new niches and markets, we think that we're in a great position to stay on top.