Interview: Ollie Gardener, Noddlepod

We speak to Ollie Gardener, the co-founder of Cardiff-based edtech start-up Noddlepod. Launched in March 2009 and having raised £105K in seedfunding last year, it’s a tool for collaborative learning and leadership development.

TD: What does your business do?

OG: We help businesses tap into the knowledge, experiences and abilities of their people. We do this by making learning initiatives more collaborative, engaging and relevant for the participants. More than anything, we’re excited about how we can utilise technology to make business more human.

TD: Why did you set it up?

OG: I was looking for a tool to help me support the sharing of knowledge and social learning in a global organisation. I didn’t like the alternatives available to me and so we started building what I was envisioning. The rest is history.

TD: What makes your business unique?

OG: No other social platform provides such easy access to the knowledge and insights already shared within the community, allowing members to build on the collective wisdom of the group.

While the core of our business is an online platform, true digital transformation requires more than just technology. New work practices and behaviour change is hard and so we work closely with our customers to understand and support this wider context.

We have a clear, primary focus on the end-user, and do everything we can to make it as easy and appealing for them to engage with each other. Administrative functionality come second, as without the engagement from the learner, these have limited value.

TD: How does it benefit customers? 

OG: Noddlepod increases the effectiveness of learning initiatives and builds supportive communities of knowledge sharing. This all contributes to improved performance, employee retention and organisational learning.

TD: What’s been your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?

OG: The corporate learning industry is undertaking a huge mental shift “training delivery” to “learning facilitation”. Both our biggest obstacle and our biggest successes come from this fact.

We’re part of this movement, and I get enormous satisfaction from hearing that customers are adjusting their approach to be more facilitative and collaborative.

Our biggest obstacles are all tied with being early in a market, dominated by administrative focused learning management systems. To some extent, we’re educating ourselves a market. Thankfully we are supported by an amazing army of passionate early-adopters of this new approach.

TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?

OG: We’ve received invaluable guidance, connections and financial support via the Welsh tech scene and are incredibly grateful for that.

I think the biggest strength for any “tech scene” are the people that consider themselves part of and contributors to that community. Wales has a lot of influential, knowledgable and passionate people, which is the starting point for anything great.

TD: How is your business contributing to it?

OG: To date our constitutions have primarily been advice over a cup of coffee. I’ve learned a lot through introductions to people that have done something I’m seeking to do, and it is nice to be able to pay that service back.

TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?

OG: If I was given that question five years ago I would be completely off.

I focus on providing value to the clients we work with and help the collective mind-shift that produces a more engaging workplace for people. Being valuable to others is usually also a good way to build something of great value.

TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?

Start small, be clear about who you seek to serve and test your assumptions. Identify your minimal viable product, and seek feedback in form of revenue. Stay connected with what you are passionate about and also filter the advice you get with that lens.