The ultimate barrier to entry is doing something no one has ever succeeded at – or even attempted – before.

Just ask Sarah Mintey MBE. Now 53, the former headteacher founded EdTech Developing Experts with CTO Shane Morgan and COO Katie Barrie, herself a former teacher, back in October 2015.

“In 2014 I was tasked with setting up a free school in Great Yarmouth and noticed that for every hairdressing vacancy there were 10 young people qualified for the position – and yet for every Level 2 engineering post, worth three times the starting salary, not a single young person in Great Yarmouth had the qualifications they needed to access the opportunity,” she tells TechBlast.

“As a headteacher, it made me realise that there is a real disconnect between what I was teaching in the classroom and what the needs are of a local economy. This is the problem I then set out to solve.”

STEM challenges

The platform is designed to stimulate excitement in STEM from primary school age and to strategically build a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline over the long term, in response to a range of industry challenges. 

“I have always had a huge vision for the company. I wanted to build a solution for governments to grow and measure their future talent pipelines,” Mintey says. “Fortunately, we now have the support and backing of government to lever the confidence of new sectors to follow. 

“But in the early days, when you are selling something which doesn’t exist and no one has bought in to, it’s a real hard sell – you’re in a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario.”

The key was to get its first sector partner – the rail industry – over the line, says Mintey. “It took us two years [to do that]. We now have nuclear, hydrogen, construction and food and farming sectors recommending our solution to their industry partners.”

Asked for an example of how Developing Experts works, she explains: “If we look at the nuclear sector, there are seven nuclear power plants in the UK: Hinkley Point C is currently under construction. 

“Based on the average age of nuclear power plant managers in the six operational plants, we know that the next power station manager for Hinkley is currently aged 7, and is in Year 4 at school. 

“We also know the area where the talent is needed. We can therefore place the career opportunity of the nuclear sector within the curriculum in line with when industry needs it.”

After seven years of operation, the Norwich company – which featured on our sister publication BusinessCloud’s EdTech 50 ranking – employs 11 staff. Turnover for 2023 is on track to reach £2m “but could exceed this sum by a considerable margin”, says the former charity CEO.

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Upscale 8.0

Developing Experts is among 35 companies accepted onto the eighth edition of Tech Nation’s Upscale. The six-month government-backed programme is designed to support and scale the most promising mid-stage tech companies in the UK, at a critical stage of their growth.

The companies will receive over 60 hours of support at world-class coaching sessions – delivered by over 20 expert scale coaches – attend networking events with key stakeholders, peers, corporates and investors, and have access to a range of online resources, designed to tackle fundamental scaling challenges around culture, talent, international expansion and financing. 

“I firmly believe that we are the sum of our network. The strength of the Upscale community provides a real depth and richness for participants to pool and share their knowledge and experience through and it is this network which always adds the ‘value add’ for any such experience,” says Mintey.

“The company is in the process of being vetted for six different government contracts: any one of these contracts will mean that the company will need to scale the size of the team. We also have several tier 1 clients wanting to expand their partnership with the company. 

“I, therefore, expect to grow the company and its offering aggressively over the next year.”

Do you overestimate – or underestimate – your goals?

Growth & exit on cards?

The startup has so far raised £2.5 million. “Once we have consolidated two or three more government contracts, the company will be in a position to explore for growth and or exit opportunities,” says Mintey.

“Founding a tech company is the hardest but most rewarding venture I have experienced. I never expected the struggle to last so long but had it not been for the struggle our business model would not have gone through the refining process it needed to.”

Asked for a nugget of advice for fellow founders, she answers: “Make sure your vision is big! Make sure your vision meets a real need! Make your product user experience exceptional!”

Cooper Parry, Cooley and Silicon Valley Bank will be Programme Partners for this year’s Upscale programme. 

Rocketing EdTech to double workforce to 200 in six months