Growth Through Innovation Fund
Grants of £1,000 – £25,000 available
Norwich-based online training start-up Reuzer advanced its growth by two years after receiving an innovation grant to invest in its e-learning platform.
With a flourishing global e-learning market, estimated to exceed US $600 billion by 2030, Reuzer entered the fast-paced and expanding sector at an opportune time in 2020. The start-up that serves the safety-critical industry had a flying start when it was awarded a grant in December 2020.
Founder Ian Smith and business partner Bobby Burrage contacted New Anglia Growth Hub’s business advisers about grants just a month prior. With a client ready in the wings to use an e-learning platform, the duo took the plunge to invest and secured match funding through the LEP’s Growth Through Innovation Fund. The grant helped to develop an online Learning Management System for the chosen sector to host bespoke and off-the-shelf content.
“I’d recommend start-ups applying for the grant as you can grow more quickly. We now had a platform in Year 1 and otherwise it would have been Year 3,” said Ian.
He worked closely with Computer Service Centre (CSC) in Norwich to cost up the platform as a minimum viable product that would enable them to launch it with the new client. Just two months later, the team kicked off the design for the ‘Reuzer Platform’ as they were well-prepared and knew what the end-product had to look like. Ian said: “I knew all the pitfalls and requirements from previous experiences and knew it had to be easy to use, optimised for tablets and mobile phones plus very visual.
“We met with CSC a lot, scoped out the work and viewed the development at incremental steps. We supplied all wire frames and they were able to replicate it pixel by pixel. This way they created a new feature every two to three weeks for review.
“We’ve had positive feedback from a client, who usually had five IT issues a week with their previous platform and one or two with us during the first two months of the launch.” Early-stage lessons are part of any development process and Ian soon discovered that using extra time for testing is important. “One should never underestimate a user-journey. You need to test for different scenarios and test for every user. You soon underestimate the time,” said Ian.
Explaining to clients that the platform is like Netflix which has the same look and feel for everyone helped him manage expectations and clarify that they cannot implement every custom request. “In my last role, we accepted a lot of changes but there is a cost involved. We were worried about losing clients, but we had a clear road map. Having a clear vision to understand the end of it, scoping it out and following it through are important.”
This was hard at times for the team, specifically when people offer money to go into a different direction but mid-2021, they launched their new e-learning platform, The Reuzer Platform. Keeping the eye on the end game obviously paid off as they signed up first client Seajacks, operator of self-propelled jack-up vessels for the renewables and oil & gas markets worldwide, with around 500 users.
Great Yarmouth-based Seajacks’ employees completed an astonishing 3,000 e-learning courses in twelve months. In the first six months, the company completed 1,500 courses on the Reuzer Platform in comparison to 120 using another platform.
In response to what he would do differently if he knew what was to come, Ian commented: “At the start, we had a grant which matches 50% of other investment. If we had borrowed more, we would have been able to maximise the grant and cater for more clients, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!”
The team has invested more since the launch and added a reseller profile so clients can apply their own branding. This feature has gained them a food waste client who reaches thousands of end-users.
Since the launch, Reuzer has employed two new people, added content and is preparing for further platform development for the first quarter in 2023.
Commenting on the application process, Ian said: “We may look at grants again soon. Business adviser Glenn went through the application form with us and the process helped with answering some questions, including the size of the market and recruitment needs. We had a business plan in place but this helped us to dig deeper.”