On the up · 14 October 2015

Airbyte: The digital startup improving the university experience for students

Airbyte's UniApp is used by the universities of Reading and Kent
Airbyte’s UniApp is used by the universities of Reading and Kent

Three university friends have created an app to make other students’ day-to-day life that much easier. They shared how their apps are already used by over 10,000 people despite only spending around £100 on marketing.

After meeting at the University of Reading, Piers Rudgard-Redsell, Steve Smith and Ross Beale started building mobile apps for iPhone and Android. Now based in the student startup accelerator on campus, the trio have created UniApp as a way to make the university experience go more smoothly for students and institutions alike.

It covers everything from notifications alerting students to upcoming lectures to app-based attendance..

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

We are Ross Beale, Piers Rudgard-Redsell, and Steve Smith. We make up the Airbyte team. We build mobile apps, with our main product being UniApp, a productivity and utility app for university students’ day to day lives. UniApp includes email, timetable, maps, and loads of useful links to learning and university services. We are working with universities and colleges to get more students using UniApp to help improve their student experience on mobile.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We’ve been building apps since 2010, but formally since 2012 when we met at the University of Reading. Our UniApp has been in two universities for nine months now.

(3) How do you make money?

We aim to charge universities to offer their students UniApp, so that we can help develop and deliver more advanced features for universities, such as analytics and student engagement tools. With university support we can also give students a better ongoing experience across more mobile platforms.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We are a driven young team of designers and developers, with a native mobile-first approach to giving students a great student app. Everything else out there doesn’t put students or user experience first. Our apps are already used by over 10,000 people and we’ve only just started.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

We have benefitted hugely from having advanced technical skills in digital design and development, as without it we would have had to outsource at greater risk. Now, we’re using our networks to take our products to the next level.

The Airbyte founders met at university
The Airbyte founders met at university

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Our biggest achievement has probably been having 5,000 log-ins onto our apps on a single day. We have only spent about £100 on marketing. This has been through making a really useful app, and a lot of sweat!

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Setbacks have been mainly around university buying patterns, and the complexity in dealing with large and old institutions. We are constantly learning and working out ways to do things better. Impatience, lateral thinking, and a bit of confidence goes a long way in turning problems into opportunities.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

In five years’ time, we will be running a passionate team of people helping to make students’ lives easier around the world. We love building apps, and want to as many people as possible to share the passion with.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Team up. No-one does it alone, as you need a strong team with a mix of skills to get anywhere with a startup. Your team might be investors or assistants, but they will know things you don’t and will definitely help along the way.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Our business heroes are the mentors and advisors we meet through local networking: real, ongoing, personal advice makes them the best heroes.

Image: Shutterstock

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.


 
TAGS:

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

Procurement