Looking for UK School Partners to Adopt Digitalisation on UK Campuses
‘Building a startup is not the same as building a product’
In the first of a series of start up interviews, we wanted to see how we could leverage stories to help others, as we continue to see an explosion of Ed Tech investments and start ups.
1. Tell us about you and your start up?
We have a vision of a world where all data about people is real. We want to create a world where all data can be verified in a matter of seconds and nobody can use fake data, such as false diplomas. Turing Certs uses Blockchain Technology to store verification data, which can be accessed via the click of a button. We believe that our technology is vital for the education industry, as it allows for seamless verification. With our technology a school or university can issue a batch of certificates in 15 minutes, whereas it takes two weeks to issue them manually.
My name is Jeff Hu (Yao-Chieh Hu) and I’m the CEO of Turing Certs. Turing Certs originated at The University of California, Berkeley in 2019 via Berkeley SKYDECK, which is the investment partner of the University. We then took the technology and the production team back to Taiwan to launch in Asia.
2. When did you first come with the idea and what was your inspiration?
When applying for grad school in the US I found it very difficult to gather all of the required certificates and verifiable information because I previously attended schools in both Taiwan and Hong Kong. I had to fly back to both countries to gather the information in person and it took months! It’s the same for all students who want to study internationally, it can be very difficult to gather all of the verifiable information that you need, which is a big problem. I’ve previously written papers on the Blockchain Industry and how it is a tech for trust, and I know that verifiable information needs to be trustworthy, so I thought why not bring both together.
Verifying someone’s background is pretty hard and time consuming so some enterprises are ignoring the fact that they need to verify their employees information, which the New York Times reports is costing these companies 7% revenue, due to mistakes as a result of fraudulent employees. We want to solve this problem from the root and envision creating a world where 100% of people’s data is legitimate.
3. What is your startup story to date?
We’re currently exploring more markets in East Asia, such as Japan, Philippines and Malaysia because Taiwan isn’t a competitive enough market on its own. We’re working with over 80 governments and schools, including Berkeley Law School in California, meaning that 20,000 students are currently using Turing Certs technology
We’re also cultivating new demo sites in Italy with the Italian government and with European Universities because we’re hoping to enter the European market. We want to be the industry leader in Blockchain verification systems!
4. What has proved to be the best advice you have received so far?
When we first started up we were getting a lot of advice from mentors in California, Taiwan and South Korea. A lot of different people have different advice, so it can be difficult to know who to listen to! I believe that we have been given two pieces of advice that have proved to be the best…
The first is that building a startup is not equal to building a product. It’s all about listening to the real question that the target market is seeking an answer to. We needed to go out and speak to our target audiences and understand their pain points because building up our understanding of the question was more important than building up an answer without sufficient research.
The second is that although we launched in Taiwan, we were told that it’s not a strong enough market because the population is too low, so we needed to expand overseas. If you want to be a global business you need to go for overseas markets in Asia, America and Europe
5. What has been your biggest challenge?
We have had many challenges but I would say that the biggest has been the fact that the education industry isn’t incredibly open to change and new technologies. When there is a new technology the education industry is usually one of the last to adopt it. A lot of educational institutions don’t like changing their routines and bringing new tech on board, which makes it more difficult for us to use our technology. However, we knew that once we got a top university in Taiwan to use Turing Certs, it would act as a flagship for our product and generate a lot more interest, which has happened! It’s important to digitalise in today’s world and a lot of educational organisations in Taiwan are only just starting to take that on board, we’ve had top professors telling us that paper certificates are best so it’s been hard to penetrate the industry and change mindframes.
6. What are your plans for the next 12 months?
12 months is a long time for a startup! Our major direction is to expand into overseas markets and collaborate with overseas governments e.g. in Hong Kong. We also want to launch more local press in different areas to promote Turing Certs. We hope to gain funding and raise capital in overseas markets in the next 6 months, we’re particularly interested in CVC funding! We’d love to be able to put our product through extra security protocol e.g. to align with Europe’s GDPR regulations.
7. How could the Digital Education Awards audience help you?
As a startup we are always looking for partners in the education sector! If you are interested in being the first organisation in your country to digitalise verification and want to see what our technology could bring to you we would love to have a conversation! We’re particularly interested in hearing from schools or course platforms who would like to digitalise their systems. What’s more your organisation doesn’t necessarily need to be education based, we have worked with diamond sellers to verify diamonds and wine sellers to verify caskets of wine! We’d also love to hear from investors, particularly those in Japan and South East Asia who would like to help us to reach our goals!