InterviewsEdTechStar of the Week

The idea of ‘disruptive’ technology seems ingrained into the psyche of the tech sector.

But does innovation need to fully fly in the face of the market, or instead look to complement it?

Bolton-based Near-Life, featured in the top 10 of our sister publication BusinessCloud’s EdTech 50 ranking, was founded seven years ago as an interactive video platform for learning and development. It has since added immersive technology to its authoring tool, which allows people to create branching gamified storylines, boosting engagement and retention of information.

With a growing user base in over 12 countries, including Fortune 500 clients, international not-for-profits and leading education providers, Near-Life is a trailblazer – but it didn’t go in with all guns blazing, says CEO Mike Todd.


“When we started out, we had what we thought was a good idea: taking digital learning to the next level and making it more immersive,” Todd, who co-founded the business with Geseth Garcia, tells TechBlast. “I still think it is a good idea.

“But seven years ago, technologies such as VR were nowhere near as mature as they are now. We proved it could work – but we also learned how mature the traditional e-learning space already was.

“There were existing mature technologies around how learning management systems work… we had to learn the ecosystem and how we fitted within that.”

Near-Life’s no-code authoring tool CREATOR+, launched two years ago, is used by more than 100 educators, learning professionals and other content creators to design interactive scenarios featuring gamification. It has grown subscribers by more than 100% over the last 12 months and integrated with the likes of Moodle, the biggest learning management system in the world.


The latest version of its tool, revealed by Todd at the Learning Technologies Conference in London, makes interactive and immersive content authoring even simpler, allowing learning designers and others to build and share more engaging and memorable experiences.

“We really don’t say that we have a one-stop shop that solves all your problems,” says Todd. “But we are a complementary tool that specifically makes this immersive and interactive learning easier.”

He says that corporate learning remains the main use-case for Near-Life, although it has users at universities and in schools, while freelancers use it to create content for clients.

‘Strategy is simple – but only when written down’

Todd says getting the platform to market was important in finessing how it works. “You can’t overstate the value of customer feedback,” he says. 

“Getting the product in the hands of users who are interested in the space you’re in, and having that collaborative input and engagement, it where you’re going to really be able to test the robustness.

“There’s the idea, and then there’s the execution. And there’ll be so many things that you’ve not thought of… people will look to use it in different ways.”

You believe you’re doing a great job – but do your clients agree?