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South African based startup, Qurio, was born out of a need to improve the education space. Founded by Paul Kim and Gareth Heuer — the former has a background in actuarial science and the latter in marketing — the pair went straight into the entrepreneurial space after completing their studies.
The team knew they wanted to build something that would help fix the South African education space. After a bit of research, Kim and Heuer found that there’s a big need for change in the testing and assessment arena. “What we found was that lecturers were losing the interest of their students and classes are getting bigger and bigger. This means that fewer people are likely to engage directly with the lecturers,” explains Heuer.
“We really wanted to simplify that process,” says Kim. “Aggregating and marking tests and homework is extremely time-consuming and exhaustive.” Qurio was founded (and self-funded) under the banner of Edge Campus from Stellenbosch University in 2012, with a simple web-based assessment tool at the front.
Getting a foot in the edtech space
In 2013, Kim and Heuer launched Qurio as a web-based assessment tool in beta during Africa Education Week. Since then, Qurio has been constantly reiterating itself, with the team trying to adapt and build new features based on feedback from its users.
As mentioned above, the application is web-based, which means that the respondents’ answers can be submitted via any device with an internet connection. Teachers can share their unique Qurio code via email, SMS, web or social media, and even print. This makes data gathering, engagement and the entire assessment process much simpler.
The company then started piloting its product at Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, and more recently, University of Pretoria. “Initially, our biggest traction was seen in the lecture halls,” explains Kim. There’s a real need for something like this for many lecturers.
When it comes to universities, however, implementing a new product — whether it works or not — is a slow, cautious process. “Universities want to protect their brand,” says Kim. Committing to a new product is a risk some would rather choose not to take. The top-down approach to roll-out a new product like this is hard.
“With our original target market we decided to go for education, though we found it incredibly difficult to go after the schools and the teachers,” tells Kim. “There’s too much bureaucracy, not a lot of freedom to choose which tools to work with in the classroom, especially digital tools for example.”
Looking beyond education
Qurio came to the refreshing yet daunting realization that its potential isn’t limited to lecture halls and classrooms.
“We soon found that there was a massive market for our tool outside of education. When looking at assessment, this problem that we’re fixing could be recognised by a number of different industries,” says Heuer. Qurio realised that asking questions is one of the most important functions a business should be performing (whether internally or externally).
The same way a lecturer can use Qurio to pose a question during class, and get feedback in real-time or behind-the-scenes, a business can get customer or employee feedback. There are various formats to choose from, including multiple choice, text input, word match and so forth.
The company recently held a competition, in prelude to the World Cup final when it asked audiences on the web which team they think would win the competition. Here’s what they found:
Another neat example of its uses is at conferences. Instead of relying on people to put their hands up during keynotes, the speaker or the organiser can skillfully, and seamlessly engage with the audience, and provide live feedback.
A difficulty that now presents itself, Heuer says, is that “If everyone’s your customer, how do you start focusing?”
The world’s an oyster?
“Wise men have said we must own local before we go global and so that’s where our efforts will be focused. However we also cannot be naïve about potential international opportunities and when they come we’ll need to assess them carefully,” explains Heuer. “If we happen to pick up some international users then let the viral spread begin.”
Though the international market may seem attractive, it also opens up the stage for more competitors.
The startup says it acknowledges that there are top end solutions with top end prices out there on the market, though there’s no mass market solutions that cater to the SME market Qurio is looking for, especially in South Africa — there’s a lot of room to grow here.
“This data gathering function is very important, yet many SMEs don’t have the budget or necessary personnel or departments to perform this function,” argues Heuer.
Locally, there are not too many competitors that specialize in this questions asking field. There are a few Enterprise Management Software solutions which may have this as a component but they are relatively expensive and complicated. There are also bigger research firms which might a more comprehensive (expensive) solutions.
The main features Qurio wants to flaunt to give it an edge are its simplicity, and cheap prices. Heuer says:
“Simplicity is our core attribute and that comes with a few other additional components that some of our competitors might not focus on which include: low data usage, low price, accessible and optimized for most devices from feature phones upwards, real-time data gathering and analytics and finally a good understanding of the local market.”
Qurio has a SaaS business model which means that, apart from the free monthly account, the site charges between R100 and R500 per month, each package with its own perks. Educators get 50% off.
Looking into the future, Heuer says that he wants Qurio to own the local market for being the simplest tool to ask questions. From NGOs, to enterprise, to agencies, to event, to media, to individual users.
Heuer sasy that Qurio aims to fundamentally change the way, and the speed, with which businesses go from the point of gathering data to the point of making actionable decisions. “We want to reduce the time it takes to get results so that more time can be spent taking action on those results,” he adds.
See Qurio in action: Go to this link, and follow the prompts.