Interview: Robert Dragan, CEO of Learnium
Robert Dragan is the CEO of Learnium, an education technology company which recently announced a unique collaboration with Microsoft. We sat down with him and asked a few questions about his background and business.
TD: Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do, please?
RD: I’ve always been interested in learning and technology. At university, I realised I could use my skills and knowledge to help others learn better. Luckily after graduating, I met Arun Wilson, Dale Bradley and Rebecca Hughes who shared my values and together we started Learnium. I am currently the CEO of the company, working alongside my co-founders and other great people to change how students learn online.
TD: What does your business do?
RD: Learnium makes it easy for UK students and teachers to communicate and collaborate online. The best way to think of Learnium is as your social learning network – the go to place to find out what’s happening in your university or college. Do you want to speak with other students? Go to Learnium. Do you have to complete some group coursework? Go to Learnium. Do you want to contact your teachers? You’ve guessed it – go to Learnium!
TD: Why did you set it up?
RD: The end goal has always been improving learning. I don’t want to become philosophical all of a sudden, but the ability to learn sets humans apart from other animals. Think what a 5% improvement in our learning capacity could mean for us as species. It’s a very exciting pursuit to try and help others develop their online learning identities.
TD: What makes your business unique?
RD: Learnium is part of the fastest growing segment in education technology, the social learning space. This is supported by the interest we’ve seen from universities and colleges across the UK. On the product side, Learnium is a unique blend of social media and learning platform. It has the familiar and intuitive feel of platforms like Facebook or Twitter, but is focused on your learning life. It is a truly unique platform for communication and collaboration for students.
TD: How does it benefit customers?
RD: Great question – let’s break it down. Students can keep in touch with their classmates, share materials and explore learning interests that sit outside their degree. Teachers save time because Learnium simplifies teacher-students communication. Universities and colleges see Learnium as a great value added service (a key differentiator in this demanding environment caused by the increase in tuition fees).
TD: What’s been your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?
RD: The last six months have been exciting for us, with a lot of rapid developments. The biggest one is a collaboration with Microsoft, which reinforces our strategic focus on improving the learning experience by allowing students across the UK to collaborate on documents in Learnium seamlessly. Challenges? Getting the word out there quickly.
TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?
RD: It’s growing, particularly here in South Wales. We began our journey in the Alacrity Foundation, a great start-up incubator based in Newport. There are some clear advantages to locating your business in South Wales. Operational costs are lower than they would be in other parts of the UK, and the local universities produce good talent. The Welsh Government has picked up on this because it’s been offering a range of support to make locating here more appealing.
TD: How is your business contributing to it?
RD: By connecting with other businesses and spreading the word about initiatives like the Alacrity Foundation and the support offered by the Welsh Government. Most importantly, though, is that we are trying to grow the company locally and are currently recruiting.
TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?
RD: Sounds like a job interview question, Nic! In five years, we should see Learnium breaking grounds internationally, and in 10 years the company will be a worldwide leader in educational technology.
TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?
RD: Just do it! (unintended reference to Shia LaBeouf)