Linc Technologies – From educators to technology heroes, how one couple turned frustration into a growing business
From educators to technology heroes, how one couple turned frustration into a growing business
When Paul Sibson gained Principalship of Fendalton Open-air School in 2007, he relocated from the UK with his Kiwi wife Aimie, a secondary school teacher. Life in education might have continued, but some people don’t just accept the status quo!
Paul found he was faced with the same frustrations in NZ as he’d experienced in British schools, with inefficiencies and burdensome administration meaning less time focused on teaching children.
Report writing was particularly labour intensive and was still being done with teachers writing paper reports that were too generic, out of date and too late to do anything about by the time parents received them.
In 2009, Paul released a new reporting system for Fendalton which delivered reports throughout the year – online and in real time. Teachers were delighted with the outcomes and the time saved, meaning they were able to spend more time teaching. Parents got a better understanding of where their kids were struggling or excelling and could work with the school to take action if needed. From a leadership perspective, Paul and his team now had greater visibility over the progress and achievement of all students. Meanwhile, Aimie was working with St Margaret’s College developing their e-Learning and Innovation Centres.
It wasn’t long before other schools got wind of the tool and wanted to use it. One or two schools grew quite rapidly to more. In 2013 Aimie and Paul set up a company and so, Linc Technologies was established, paving the way for LINC-ED.
Recognising there was value in what they were building, they worked with the Ministry of Education to get accreditation across the student management piece, giving them wings to expand to school administration, including student attendance, enrolments and billing.
Continued growth meant that in 2016 the two educators turned their full focus from being educators to leading Linc Technologies. They decided to go “all in,” which meant they had to focus on making it work; there was no safety net! Paul continued to drive the product development and Aimie became the CEO, building the business and developing the mid-to-long-term vision.
They were then accepted as one of 10 startups into Vodafone’s Xone Accelerator Programme. They describe the programme as “excellent”, helping them think about growth and scale from the outset; providing valuable introductions and exposing them to the learnings of other scaling businesses. Hearing “war stories” definitely shaped their thinking!
The year saw rapid growth in the number of schools and the business brought on its first employees – professional developers and support staff.
Building for Scale
As they continued to grow, the couple realised their technology was not suitable for scale and international expansion. Paul and Aimie made the tough decision to rebuild their entire platform from scratch. Naively thinking it would be done in a few months, it took 4 years! The result is a modern platform built on cutting edge technology (GoLang and Ember), with API-interface enabling them to partner and integrate with other platforms. It is cloud-based, secure and totally scalable for growth.
They named the new platform ‘Hero’ and are enjoying having some fun in their marketing to their ‘Heroes’ – the students, teachers and parents who use the platform.
2020 was a doubly challenging year for LINC-ED. They were about to start the migration of users to Hero when COVID hit. Ultimately they decided to press ahead and are proud to have successfully achieved the migration.
“We work with outstanding schools who worked with us throughout this time and together we made this happen under a really challenging and unique set of circumstances.”
Investing in The Long-Term
It isn’t only the technology that has been built for growth. The business structure was deliberately built for scale from day one, including the understanding of the vital role of having the right team, culture and advisors.
Early on they established a board that helped them think strategically about building a globally scalable business. They each have a coach or mentor and Aimie values the connections she has made through Christchurch’s Executive Women in Tech group.
The next chapter for the business is all about global growth; they have all the building blocks in place and now it’s about ramping up the scale. Having learned a lot from their own journey, they are taking a strategic approach, starting with Australia and South East Asia
“Do it once and do it right,” is their mantra and one they intend to follow as they take on global growth.
They say Christchurch is a great place to live, bring up their family and to grow a business. The couple have found it small enough to know lots of people, but big enough to have a buzz and excitement.
From their perspective, Christchurch has enabled them to build deep relationships which help in growth, especially with NZTE, ChristchurchNZ and Callaghan Innovation.
“Christchurch is Paradise,” says Paul.
Aimie and Paul are looking forward to the next chapter and helping more schools, parents and above all, kids globally.
To find out more listen in to the EPIC Podcast with Paul Sibson