Tom Wood, CEO of RWA
Tech Dragons recently caught up with Tom Wood, the CEO of RWA, a Blaenavon-based company developing technologies and solutions for learning and skills development.
TD: What does your business do?
TW: RWA e-Learning builds and provides online learning solutions designed to engage learners, increase skills development and help learners to evidence competence and achievement.
TD: Why did you set it up?
TW: RWA has a rich history in the financial services consultancy and training world over the last 24 years. We got into online learning about 10 years ago as a means to help insurance professionals evidence competence as part of financial services regulation.
We have then used this experience and knowledge to build a dedicated small team of learning and development professionals from various backgrounds to redefine the way online learning can work.
Our Vision is to build a sustainable future where our knowledge, skills and expertise can be passed on to others to support business and personal growth. Online learning is just one of the methods that we are doing this.
TD: What makes your business unique?
TW: We have a very different approach to online learning that focuses on delivering an online system designed with the learner in mind. Fed up with traditional online death by slideshow which can only measure a pass or a fail, we developed a new approach that allows learners to find their knowledge gaps and identify business risks before helping the learners fill those gaps and increase their motivation to want to learn more.
This ultimately helps firms tick a lot of boxes in the workplace, whether that is fulfilling a regulatory requirement, increasing motivation of teams, promoting transformational leadership or even just helping individuals master new skills to aid business growth and performance.
The My Development Zone solution, which we provide with Aviva, is feature rich and gives businesses and learners access to a very low cost online learning solution that would normally be out of their reach. No longer do firms have to pay high costs for platform or plugin development, course creation or administration time; they can now access an all in one system for a low monthly licence fee per learner.
TD: How does it benefit customers?
TW: By focusing on gap analysis, we can save firms and learners a lot of time by focusing not on what they already know, but on what they don’t know. This highlights the risks to their businesses or where there is room for personal development, saves people time and allows them to focus on the knowledge that they don’t have.
My Development Zone contains a whole host of tools, reports and features that means individuals, supervisors, trainers and business leaders can all adapt the system to their personal needs and monitor progress against the rest of the system population.
Learning is innate, and we are using technology coupled with human support to facilitate that.
TD: What’s been your biggest success?
TW: The biggest success has been partnering with Aviva to launch the system into the insurance market. Over the last 12 months, we saw 489% growth in usage and doubled the number of licences sold. Our goal has always been to ensure that our learners not only use the system, but keep coming back on a regular basis to engage with the learning process.
We have incorporated Open Badge technology and have just passed the landmark figure of issuing our 50,000th badge on the system. This success has seen us take My Development Zone over to Corfu in April 2016, to demonstrate how our approach to learning can be used to develop skills on the islands and facilitate entrepreneurialism. In 2015, we were finalists in the e-learning development company of the year award category at the Learning Technologies e-Learning Awards.
TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?
The Welsh tech scene is definitely growing, which is really positive. I spend a lot of time around the UK, including London, so get to see what is happening elsewhere. I think the biggest issue facing the Welsh scene is one of how it markets itself to attract more start-ups and to encourage more tech start-ups to come to Wales.
It has a lot to offer in terms of a different lifestyle to say London; and Wales has a great pool of creative talent to tap into, but I’m not sure that message is heard enough. I’d also like to see more support for tech firms outside of the Welsh cities. I see some great things going on in the Valleys and in West Wales, but they don’t seem to attract the same levels of support.
TD: How is your business contributing to it?
TW: It’s important to us that we promote where we are based. We set up our Head Office in Blaenavon which works well for us as we have the support of the Torfaen council, the local community and benefit from a skilled workforce who enjoy coming to work in an area surrounded by beautiful countryside.
The relationship we have with Aviva and a number of our other clients means that we regularly have visitors coming to Wales, which supports the local economy and enhances the reputation of what Welsh companies do. We try and use local suppliers where possible and ensure that we give back to the community within which we work.
TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?
TW: It’s important to us that we develop a sustainable business with Wales at our core. We are launching a new business skills online learning platform with Aviva and the plan is to grow that and take it overseas.
We have social aims to support enterprise in Wales and want to work more with school age children to develop their business skills and improve their chances of getting ready for the world of work. It would be great to see more local businesses working more closely with secondary schools to help bridge the skills gap and create a future that will benefit Wales and technology needs to play a big part in how that is delivered.
TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?
TW: Be prepared to learn and listen. Think about developing your business sustainably, and focus on the long term goal. Funding and investment is not the be all and end all. Use your networks wisely, build a team of people that share your vision, and give them the autonomy to help take you forward.
TD: What’s it like to be part of the Digital Dozen 2016?
TW: It’s a great acknowledgement for the 12 companies. We’ve all worked hard and all have great teams of people sharing our journeys and our vision. For us, we are looking forward to building new networks and using this as a platform to help us grow further.