Chris Hurley is an ambitious Kent Business School student currently looking to source funding to support the launch of Notify, a communal online learning app that helps students trade hints, tips and revision notes. Chris talks to us about his start-up software development company Craftwork Software LTD and the importance of funding for start-up projects.
Could you describe the app you have developed?
As part of a project backed by the University of Kent, we are building a revision and learning tool for higher education students. The tool is an app called Notify which will explore whether repetition and reminders through notifications can reduce procrastination and improve learning.
Where did the idea come from?
Notify came from a mixture of working on StudentCore and a personal hate for Notes on iPhone. I felt that Notes is so limited in functionality and could be so much better, as well as look much more professional and appealing. I therefore decided to develop an app that combines the slick note-taking features that Notes lacks and the ability to share revision content to other students that we were trying to tap into with StudentCore. Notify aims to help you create, download and share great revision notes and effectively learn from them.
Could you tell us about your start-up company?
Notify is being built under our software development company Craftwork Software LTD. Craftwork was founded in May 2017. I am the founder and Director of the company and the lead on the Notify project.
Currently, Notify includes me (Chris Hurley), Adam Freeland, Michael Hurley, Dominic Bryan and Adam Smith. I am the founder and Director of Craftwork and am leading the Notify project. Adam Freeland is a long running friend and colleague of mine who works in management at the energy firm Utilita. His role is Director of Account Management and Sales. He mainly helps with managing our finances and raising funds. Michael Hurley is my brother and a graduate of De Montfort University in International Business and Management. He is our Marketing Director and has led all of our marketing campaigns. He also developed our brand and image as a business. Dominic Bryan is our Head of Programming and Graphic Design. Dom is a very skilled developer who also studies Computing at De Montfort University. He has been the creative engine behind the look and design of the app. Adam Smith, Entrepreneur In Residence at Kent Business School, is mentoring the project as part of the Self Employed Placement programme. As an experienced entrepreneur he ensures our project is heading in the right direction.
Have you ever run any other businesses?
Our team is very experienced when it comes to running start-up businesses. Michael and I ran a business called StudentCore together for a few years. This is an online academic forum website for students at De Montfort University.
What is your area of study at the University of Kent?
At the University of Kent I study BA (Hons) Business and Management. The course has a placement year which provided the perfect opportunity to develop our start-up business in a supportive and entrepreneurial environment. The course also coincides well with running a business as you learn many vital skills such as marketing, accounting and management. I have been able to implement much of the stuff I have learnt on my course in my business start-up experience with Notify.
What were the biggest challenges?
Our biggest challenge was technical knowledge. We didn’t know things like which language we wanted it programmed in, whether we wanted iOS or android, what servers and databases to use etc. Thankfully we managed to overcome this by assigning Dominic Bryan, a skilled developer to the team.
What has been the thing you have enjoyed most?
The part I’ve enjoyed most is the working environment we have. The team is full of talented, driven and ambitious people. This not only makes a successful project, but also a great working experience. Putting so much effort into something you truly care about and are proud of, with a group that you trust and bounce off of is a very rewarding experience.
You are seeking investment for Notify – how much do you want and what is it for?
We are looking to raise £5,000 for Notify. This is to develop a full version of the app that functions immaculately and provides a great user experience. Development will cost about £1,500 of the funding, and will take around 3 weeks to build. This is a quick turn-around time and as we have the designs, specifications and people building it all lined up we are expecting it to be a very smooth process
The goal of the project is to see if mobile apps and push notifications can benefit learning and this will only be achievable with a good number of users. Therefore a budget of £3,000 has been laid out for the task of marketing and getting as many people on Notify as possible within the year. We already have a promotional video and campaign ready and are waiting for the green light. The remaining money will be used for maintaining the app and its servers and fixing any bugs that might occur. The investment is not merely a booster; it will effectively fund the entire project and make for a great student app experience.
How will I benefit if I invest my money?
A lot of the people who have shown interest so far are partly driven by wanting to see what the finished product will look like and having a go on it themselves. We therefore offer free, early bird access to backers once the app is completed – which we estimate to be 3 weeks after we reach our investment goal. However we do also offer other rewards for supporting Notify. These include thank you letters, Notify merchandise, updates from the team about what’s going on and even a spot on our special backer’s plaque in the app for all to see.
How do you see Notify developing in the future?
I can see Notify evolving into a more social service in the future and creating a solid network within Universities. We would like to help students to get together and share ideas more and make finding out what’s going on within their university as easy as possible. We would also like to target undergraduates deciding which course and university to choose by introducing reviewing features and other ways to provide them with information.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start their own business?
My advice would be to make a product for an industry that you know and love. If you don’t enjoy your work or know the benefit you’re looking to provide, you will struggle to make great products. For me Notify combines my student lifestyle and the experiences within it that have shown me gaps in the market to pursue and my love for app design. I would also recommend surrounding yourself with enthusiastic, like-minded people if you can. They not only chip in with great ideas, but also provide invaluable motivation for you to keep at with your business.
Many thanks to Chris Hurley for sharing his start-up story. If you wish to learn more about Notify, and support the project, visit the Notify Kickstarter page. If you are keen to start-up your own business visit the Business Start-Up Journey, and learn about the support offered by Kent Business School.