One of the most exciting businesses we’ve come across in recent years is EdTech platform globalbridge and following his appearance at Newcastle Startup Week 2018, we caught up with Ben Mason (Founder & CEO) to ask about their origin and his plans for the future.
1. Hi Ben, can you please give me a brief overview of your business?
globalbridge is a digital platform connecting talent with opportunity. It gives young people the opportunity to safely showcase their aspirations and talents, in order to connect with relevant future opportunities. This can include work experience, apprenticeships and careers roles. For the provider, e.g., university or employer, globalbridge enables them to identify, connect and recruit future talent. We provide a revolutionary way to connect pathways between education and industry.
2. Who is your target audience and how do you help them?
- First priority – young people searching for the next step in their educational or working path. We give them the tools to create a multimedia online record of achievement to display all their talents. They can also identify, view and connect with FE/HE opportunities, as well as employers, training providers and gap programmes, to help map and pathway their future progression.
- Schools and Colleges: Now have a safe digital platform to help their students record their experiences and achievements. Schools/colleges can monitor student progress and destinations, as well as support students in the creation of their digital ‘record of achievement’ and ‘CV’. The school/college profile page can also be used as a recruitment tool in the post 16 market for 6th form colleges to advertise to GCSE students. University undergraduates or people looking for employment within schools/colleges can also search and connect with potential career roles within such educational establishments.
- Universities and Further Education colleges are able to advertise course opportunities via their profile page. They can search for potential students by either predicted UCAS points, subject grade, talents, e.g., music etc. They can then support student applications/identify talent earlier. For their current students, creating a digital profile can again be used to help connect with future employers, internships, placements or education opportunities etc.
- Employers: again, search for talent based on careers aspirations, skills, academic grades where needed etc. Also advertise career roles and schemes such as work experience, apprenticeships, internships, placements etc via their digital profile page.
- Gap Programmes and Training Providers: They can advertise opportunities via their digital profile page.
3. When was the business established, how many people are in your team & where are they based?
globalbridge launched live in 2017 and now has 5 full time members of staff. We have an office in Newcastle but our staff are based in Northumberland, Durham, Edinburgh and London.
4. What motivated or inspired you to start the business?
Following 16 years in teaching I saw a number of issues with how students progress from education into the world of work.
From the students’ perspective, many application processes are outdated, paper-based and heavily focus on grades. Young people need a safe, digital platform to showcase their talents whether they are grade-based or not. The media platform also enables all skill types to be showcased. Current online platforms also have issues regulating user access, meaning Internet-based platforms are a risk for young people and schools, etc. We work with the school/college to alleviate this risk.
As a teacher, I was also being contacted by universities and employers every year trying to identify up and coming talent that would benefit from their opportunities. Enabling such providers to safely identify and connect with future talent gives young people a huge opportunity to receive guidance on appropriate pathways.
Finally, as an educationalist, I have a real passion to level the playing field for young people and create equal opportunity for all, regardless of social class, gender, ethnicity etc. Students are more than just a list of grades and current systems need a way for this to be visible.
5. Where did you go for help or advice when you first started out?
Connections with people I knew. North East businessman, Geoff Hodgson has been a huge influence in helping to set the business up and connect with the right people. He has also been a great source of guidance when entering a world very different to teaching! Also, our seed investors gave great support and their experience and advice was invaluable. Their decisions to back the company in the beginning will always be greatly appreciated.
6. We think the North East of England is a great place to start or grow a business. Do you agree & if so, why?
I would 100% agree. The region is really well-connected and so you are only a couple of contacts away from where you need to get to. We’re also a friendly group in the North East and so people are always willing to help in order to see the region thrive and for the success of all. We have found huge support from network groups such as CBI, North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC), The Federation of Small Businesses, Tees Valley Business Club, Newcastle Startup Week, etc.
7. Have you had any funding or investment to date & if so, where from? (e.g. Angel Investors, VCs, Govt Grants).
All our investment to date has come from private equity investors. We have had two major funding rounds with a couple of interim rounds. Following our seed round, we then went through an oversubscribed funding round just before Christmas 2017.
We are currently looking at a further investment round and have potential opportunities with tech partners, as well as VC Houses.
8. How would you like to see the business develop over the coming months & years?
In the coming months, we would like to see roll out across the whole of the North East and Tees Valley. Having partnered with Middlesbrough Authority to digitally connect pathways between education and industry across the region, we also have proposals with a number of other local and regional authorities to do the same. If we can connect the North East, helping to retain and attract talent to the region, this will give us a fantastic springboard to other parts of the UK where we have already met with a number of regional authorities and national organisations.
Being a North East business with North East seed investment, we have a real passion to launch a national solution from the North East in the coming months. In the next 12-24 months, we would like to start including international opportunities. With our first international school already on the platform along with global employers, our aspirations are obviously to be in this space.
9. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a tech/digital business?
Always make sure you ask questions. Even if you think you know the answer, don’t be afraid to double check! It’s key to make sure you stay on the right path as mistakes are easily made. Others have been there before and their advice is valuable!
Surround yourself with positive supportive people where you can. Startup life can be a lonely road and there will be many times where you feel like giving up!!
Make sure you scope your platform to the nth degree! Development costs (if you’re not doing it yourself) can ramp up very quickly and you don’t want to have to repeat work believe me!!!
Buy a dog! Looking at a screen all day and being under pressure, you need to get outside. A dog never refuses to go for a run, doesn’t mind listening to you winge, and will never turn down your company, no matter how grumpy you get!
Want to know more?
If you’d like to know more about globalbridge, visit www.globalbridge.org.uk