Women In Innovation Success Stories: Maud Millar, Adapt, London
Helping Students Focus their Time with a Revision Planning App
EdTech startup Adapt was already making great strides in schools when founder Maud Millar joined Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Programme. The former teacher and her team had launched their GCSE and A-level planning app – which helps students plan their time in the run up to exams – with 500,000 downloads in 5,000 schools around the world, and winning several awards.
The next step was evolving their product for professional qualifications, researching and designing a solution for graduate trainees taking exams in subjects including law, chartered accountancy and finance.
To do this, they needed to design appropriate courses and curricula, develop a new, more professional interface and then live test it with trainees and mentors. This required vital funds, not to mention knowledge of the world of business – something Maud didn’t initially have.
Essential funding to develop a more lucrative product
Winning a place on the Women in Innovation Programme ticked both boxes. Maud describes the funding associated with the award as “transformative” in helping them move beyond schools and develop the more lucrative professional iteration of their EdTech product, a key move in helping them achieve financial stability.
“As an early-stage startup, every penny counts,” she says. “Without the [Women in Innovation] financial support, there would have been no way we could have justified taking time out of our immediate day-to-day ‘business as usual’ of chasing sales in order to reach break-even, and thus this project wouldn’t have come to fruition for several years.”
But the connections she made as part of the programme were, if anything, even more important. With a Senior Business Mentor from the HR space, she was able to access a number of HR professionals in companies that hire trainees, allowing the team to test and refine their ideas with live trainees and mentors, and fully validate the product with real potential customers in the exact market they are targeting.
Credibility and the importance of planning
As well as all of this, Maud believes that winning the Award gave her a level of credibility she might otherwise not have had. Having spent most of her career in the education sector, which is still largely dominated by women, moving into the business world came with its challenges – especially when it came to raising funds.
“I would have struggled to move into the corporate learning space without the seal of approval placed upon me by the backing from Innovate UK,” she says. “In order to be taken seriously in that world, which is seriously male-dominated, it has been vital to be seen as coming with heavyweight credentials, and Innovate UK has provided me with that.”
But her advice to anyone thinking of applying for other similar opportunities is to have a clear plan of action and something concrete that you want to achieve.
“Mentors can only provide what you ask them for,” she says, “so you need to have a gameplan which moves along logically and effectively from milestone to milestone. For us, that began with user research, then prototyping, then live testing. I’d recommend something similar to most people.”
“At every stage, my mentor has been able to connect me with customers appropriate for the stage of work we were focused on, and we were able to test and validate and then move confidently to the next milestone. Having a clear focus for the next quarter, every quarter, gives you the best possible chance of success.”