This week we speak to Ivo Oltmans, co-founder of Typekids, an online touch typing course for children. He tells us the importance of testing every aspect of a new business and the psychological stresses of being an entrepreneur.
How would you describe your business?
Few people ever stop to realize that we do almost all our writing on a keyboard. This is especially true for children, because computers are increasingly used at schools. By learning touch typing children can increase their writing speed by up to five times. In addition, adopting a correct body posture can prevent stress related injuries such as RSI.
Our business is a touch typing course for children. The course is completely online so that kids can learn without having to leave the house. We added two elements to keep children engaged throughout the course. They will join a pirate captain on an adventure that unfolds as the course progresses. At the end of each lesson students also get to play a game that is fun and at the same time reinforces the skills learnt.
The use of the latest technologies guarantees an optimal learning experience in the shortest amount of time. Error patterns are automatically detected and exercises are adapted accordingly for each student. If a student frequently mixes, for instance, the letters J and K more exercises with these letters are given.
How did you come up with the idea?
David Temes, one of the two TypeKids founders, is a programmer and noticed that most of his colleagues typed rather slowly despite spending their days behind a computer. By discussing it with me, who would later be his co-founder, we reached the conclusion that many people would benefit from learning touch typing and that this is especially true for children.
How long did it take you to get TypeKids off the ground?
It took us one year to develop the course.
What applications or tools do you find most useful for your business? Why?
We used Unbounce which is a platform that allowed us to easily create different versions of the same page and test them against each other to find-out which one converts better. We’ve also used Google analytics to track website traffic statistics and Highrise which is a CRM system that allows us to manage our contacts and keep track of interactions.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your business model?
We sell to two different types of customers: individual users and schools. We offer a different licensing model for both groups. Individual users pay a monthly subscription. Schools can buy a site license that is renewed annually.
How are you promoting your service?
At the moment we do all promotion through search engine marketing. We will soon launch some new initiatives to reach more potential customers.
What’s been the most difficult aspect of setting up your business?
There were two difficult aspects, a technical and psychological one. On the technical side we had to start from scratch with everything: functional and graphic design, programming, the course structure, all of which was technically challenging.
Another factor was the psychological one. It is tough spending a year working on a product that we did not know for sure was going to sell. Other entrepreneurs warned us in advance that it would be a rollercoaster ride, but the only way to really find out is to experience it yourself.
What have you learned along the way?
We learned so many things we could write a book about it. We learned new skills such as online marketing, PR, SEO and many others. We also learned about the fear, uncertainty and doubt as to whether you are doing the right thing. Most importantly, we found out what an incredibly rewarding feeling it is to get the first clients!
What piece of advice would you give to someone setting up their own startup?
A/B test everything you can think of, measure the impact and improve. You never know in advance what is going to work.
Where do you see the business in five years’ time?
In five years’ time TypeKids will be localized to eight other languages and hope it will be the product of choice for any parent that wants their kids to learn one of the most basic and overlooked computing skills.