Nikki Thng is the MD of Class4Kid

He is a serial entrepreneur who, through overhearing a chance conversation in a park playground, recognised a real gap in the edtech market.

Q. Class4Kids seems to be the perfect online solution creating a link between parents looking for extra-curricular activities and sports clubs looking for members – what prompted you to get into the Ed-Tech space and how did you get it off the ground?

Nikki Thng – The Class4Kids ultimate vision is to become the market place for Parents to find great kids classes and activities and organisers to be able to promote and manage their business. I was sitting in a park running my first business that I had built up in the previous 5 years. I was in a good position; I was running the business pretty well remotely with good revenue and a good team behind me. My focus was expanding the business but the cost price per unit was looking exorbitant, I would need big funding to expand throughout the UK quickly.
Switching off from that business for a while, I overheard a conversation of two mums struggling to find kids classes in their area, which got me thinking. I should really get my son Jack (3years old at the time) into some classes. I looked on my iPad and went through the nightmare for the first time that every parent must go through. It then took me back to my sports coaching days, when I was a tennis coach, noticeboards, word of mouth and newspapers were the promotional norm and paper registration forms & payment by cheque was also common. My immediate thought was – ‘Has this industry really not moved on since I came away from it 6 years ago? There must be an easier way to do this?’

Q. Your background suggests more knowledge of sports than technology or are you a secret tech dev at heart?

Nikki Thng – After some research (2 months & 100+ calls) to prove the fact that this industry really hadn’t moved into the web era, I decided to go for it. Where do I begin? I had the knowledge being a coach before and a parent so I guess user experience was there, however I have no knowledge of software or building a product. In fact I hated computers when I was younger however this didn’t scare me, my existing business was in the motor industry and I had no interest before in cars, I had seen a gap in the market and went for it. So, I set about getting a business plan in place and then knocked on the door of my wealthiest clients for funding. Within in another 3 months I had an investor, put my first business up for sale and was ready to start.

Q. If not was your lack of technical knowledge a barrier to entry and how did you overcome this?

Nikki Thng – I quickly had to learn quick software, do I buy a product already out there, do I get a software company to build my product. They were my two options, both took me to open up discussions all over the UK and America, I also flew to the Isle of Man to negotiate with a software company. The third option of building my own software team started coming into the mix when negotiation of data rights & IP started wearing me down so that was what I did. Within another three month I had 2 developers squeezed into a shared office and a senior developer coming on board. By March 2014 we had a team of 6 and we moved into our first office, we had half a product built and the burning desire to make Class4Kids take over the world!!!!!

Q. What was the most important element of the brief to the developers?

Nikki Thng – White boards, big TV’s on the wall so we have all the tools available to get the spec correct before any feature of the website gets built. I went through a sharp learning curve on how it is important to listen to customers and then communicate it exactly to developers otherwise lots of time can get wasted. I also learnt that everything at an early stage in SAAS business should be done at MVP level and then tested in the market early because the reality of what people ask for and what people use or what they actually need can be very different.

Q. According to John H. Holloway, a consultant with the Educational Testing Service, research suggests that extracurricular activities can benefit all students and the media and Government initiatives are all geared to getting kids more active – Class4Kids is clearly tapping into this necessary trend how is the business going? I see you are working with a whole host of interested parties – E.g. Surfing GB, Scottish Cycling, The British Horse Society to name just a few – how did you get these names on board with your initiative?

Nikki Thng - In a year we have started to really build some meaningful relationships going forward, over 20 governing bodies and 30 councils listed with us along with over 25,000 classes in the UK listed. We are up to 100,000 page views on average per month and generate about 500 enquiries per month to clubs. We are 2 months into a beta version of our management tools currently and already have course fees from the 25 clients that are testing it and will be launching and scaling this in the next few months.

Q. As a young entrepreneur have you had any external support?

Nikki Thng – £300k to date from private investors, £50k put in from me part due to the sale of my first business. We are gearing up for another round of investment and I am building a team of experience around me and am planning to scale in the UK, go international and become investor ready.

Many thanks to Nikki Thng for this interesting insight into the development of his edtech business. It just goes to show that you never know where a good idea will come from and there are lots of very experienced software developers out there ready to help everyone realise their business dreams.

We met Nikki when he asked to join the ardent Tech Start Ups UK & Europe and we wish him every success with his plans. ardent help lots of ‘start up’ and ‘growth phase’ businesses with their software development please take a look at some of our work.

Next month we will be interviewing the man that co-ordinated the merging of the IT departments of the mighty Glaxo Wellcome & Smith Kleine Beecham and is now sharing his knowledge and experience of IT integration through his consultancy itica.