If you have ever thought about getting an education or continuing education, you are well aware of the many options. It is hard to get an overview, let alone being able to compare the different study programs and courses offered by universities and schools. That’s why Benjamin Vidas, now COO, and his co-founders decided to solve this problem by building eduwo – a platform that offers an overview of educational programs and guides people toward their ideal degree and profession.
After working with Benjamin and his team on the design of eduwo, we can confirm that this platform is definitely one you’ll want to check out whenever you’re thinking about getting an education. We got the chance to ask Benjamin about his vision, the things he’s learned the hard way, and the future of the Swiss education system.
What inspired you to start eduwo?
Fortunately, Switzerland has a diverse range of educational and professional opportunities. However, the large variety of choices can also be overwhelming. We founded eduwo so that everyone can find the right education for themselves.
What advantages does eduwo offer over other career counseling services?
The advantage of eduwo is that users not only receive all the information about the schools and study programs, but can also benefit from the experiences of current and former students. Further, we connect between people looking for education, and schools or potential employers.
In addition, we have recently launched a brand new and innovative comparison function that allows direct comparison between various continuing education programs in a very user-friendly way.
What does success mean for eduwo? How do you measure it?
We are successful when our users – potential students and schools – are satisfied. We measure this by the number of users and the average time spent on our website. Most important, however, are the matches between users and providers – for example when information material gets ordered or a consulting meeting is requested.
Can you tell us about your revenue model?
Schools pay for a premium presence on eduwo – either a flat rate or per referral of potential students.
How will the Swiss education system shift in the future?
I think that in the future everything will become more digital and much will take place over distance learning. This trend certainly got accelerated by the Coronavirus crisis.
Even schools that aren’t well-known yet will be more and more in demand, and the skills like programming and an understanding of IT will be increasingly at the forefront.
The importance of lifelong learning is also increasing. More and more people are frequently taking smaller and more specific courses, even later in life.
Furthermore, interdisciplinarity, the cooperation of different disciplines – for example artificial intelligence with marketing – is becoming very significant.
On leadership & strategy
What were the best decisions and where would you adjust certain steps you’ve made along the journey? What are the lessons from them?
My best decision was to start eduwo and to have the experience of building and developing the company. Certainly, there is always a risk of losing focus. Further, it is important to regularly assure that you spend the money on the right priorities.
Nowadays, there is a great number of advice and support opportunities for Swiss startups. How do you know which advice to follow and which to ignore?
I think it’s always important to get a second opinion on any received advice, and to take the time to discuss the inputs on important issues with the team.
This year you extended the eduwo platform by a feature that allows users to compare courses. What prompted you to do that?
There are thousands of study programs in Switzerland and all of them have different requirements, varying costs, advantages, disadvantages, learning content and study durations. Therefore, it usually takes a lot of time to find the right course. Thanks to this new function, the courses can be compared very quickly and easily, which helps a person a lot.
How do you prioritize which features to build next?
Our platform always puts the user first and we try to continuously release innovative features for their needs. For example, based on the feedback from HR departments of companies, we will soon extend the new comparison feature so that it is optimized for companies. This way, HR managers can make it available for their employees and optimally propose possible paths for continuing education.
“Our platform always puts the user first and we try to continuously release innovative features for their needs.”
On Technology & Design
What have been the biggest technology challenges you’ve had to overcome? How were you able to master them?
We built the eduwo platform from the ground up. Creating a website from scratch comes with certain struggles. An example: SEO – search engine optimization. If you use WordPress, for example, there are SEO plugins available that allow content optimization on a website in order to rank higher on search engines quite easily. This does not exist when you build everything from the ground up. But of course, there are advantages or reasons that speak for programming it from scratch.
What would be your best technology-related advice to other startups?
Use well-known and established programming languages, keep it lean and start with a MVP! Furthermore, communication among the IT-developers, and between the business and the developers, is enormously important.
“Use well-known and established programming languages, keep it lean and start with a MVP!”
What were the biggest benefits to collaborate with Voa Labs?
One of the biggest benefits was to gain a professional outside perspective on the new comparison function. Also, to benefit from their top-notch design and UX skills which we don’t have internally. Another huge advantage was the fast and flexible implementation with agile feedback rounds.
For further information about eduwo and the comparison feature we designed together, read the case study.
Joël Sonderegger is the Founder & Managing Director at Voa Labs. He helps his team strategize, design, and engineer products that enable businesses to transform their ideas into digital solutions, while energetically steering all aspects of Voa Labs’ operations.
Previously, Joël was a VP of Product Management at Sygnum, the world's first digital asset bank. Prior to that, he worked at Zühlke and IBM, where he gained his passion for agile, high-tech environments in which creativity and collaborations are proactively encouraged.
Joël holds a Master of Business Innovation from the University of St. Gallen (HSG) and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW).