Kickstarting Ideas: Interview with…Eoghan Powell
Who are you?
My name is Eoghan (pronounced the same as “Owen”) Powell. I’m currently studying the Global MBA. I’ve worked in various different Education formats for about 17 years. As well as my day job and MBA, I am also in the process of developing Conan Labs, which is building an AI Teachers’ Assistant.
What inspired you to explore your idea?
I came across a technology called Gong.ai, which is a tool used to support Sales people. As I learned about it, I thought the same techniques could be incredibly useful in an online classroom.
We have developed a prototype which automatically measures student engagement online. This can be used by Educators to improve their practice and better understand their students.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I don’t have a technical background, so initially I had hoped to get someone else to do those aspects of the project. That meant I was spending more time trying to meet people in that space than moving the project forward. A friend advised me that if I could somehow advance the project that finding the right people would follow on naturally. So I built the initial proof of concept myself. What would take someone who already had the right skills days, took me weeks, but I have a much better understanding of what is possible with the technology. Now we have to figure out a way to rebuild the idea, so it can scale.
What has been the impact of the Nick Sanders Kickstarter Award? What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt?
The award was the initial spark, that lit the flame. Before it was just an idea in my head but with as much as the cash was nice, it was the confidence that the award gave us that has had the most lasting impact.
The most valuable lesson has been, that if you can solve a real problem for people they will go out of their way to help you make it work. The customers we have spoken with have opened so many doors that we couldn’t unlock; we’ve met with Governments and Industry bodies that wouldn’t go near a company at the stage we are at, but having someone on the inside be passionate about the product has made that happen.
What is next for Conan Labs?
We have lots of excited partners and potential customers, so we are in the process of building out the product in a way that will allow it to scale. With that in place we have a roadmap to get the business Venture fundable.
And finally, have you got any tips for potential applicants?
The first step is the hardest. Assume it won’t work (almost every startup fails!), so everything positive thing that happens is a bonus. You will learn more by giving it a go than a thousand lectures.
Follow on Twitter: @meetconan