In our latest Founder Feature, we’ve partnered with the Super Connect for Good Competition powered by Empact Ventures and Hays. We’re talking with Ibrahim Farook, Founder and CEO of Bright Idea Education and creator of the Cosmico learning app, Ibrahim was recently one of Super Connect for Good’s Growth Roundtable panellists.
Cosmico offers a purposeful and powerful learning experience, adapting to different learning styles. The company’s vision is to be inclusive for all learners, encouraging each of them to take ownership of their educational journey.
Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?
Bright Idea Education is a young, EdTech start-up looking to make a big difference to the lives of children everywhere. We have created a product- Cosmico, which is adaptive, game-based, teaching, learning and supporting app that deepens and accelerates a child’s learning, regardless of their starting point; and allows the child to work at their own pace. We want our app to lead the Ed-Tech space with our pioneering vision!
What made you decide to take on the challenge of founding your business?
I have always had that entrepreneurial spirit in me from a young age. I have also always wanted to help people in any way I can. I like to take risks and I find the prospect of founding and running my own business very rewarding. Yes, it is very stressful and all-time consuming, but I would rather be doing something I fully enjoy and get real job satisfaction from.
Who are you and what is your story?
I am Ibrahim Farook, and I am the CEO/Founder of Bright Idea Education. I created this company because I want to ensure no child gets left behind. I grew up with dyslexia and have first-hand experience of how schools deal with such learning difficulties. I loved learning but struggled with the ‘one-fits-all approach’ of our education system. I understood from an early age that everyone is unique and has different learning styles. I knew that if I could create a platform that makes learning fun, easy, enjoyable to understand and accessible to all, I could make a real difference. So, I decided to take action, leave my job in finance and start the company… nearly 3 years later, here we are!
Tell us about some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
As a start-up, we are presented with obstacles on a daily basis, some of which are around the product, funding, team building and around growth. The best metaphor I can use is building a start-up is like building a boat on water, with limited resources. We have learnt to adopt the mindset of ‘less is more’. We are always limited by the funding we have; the amount of time we have to execute our ideas and the number of staff we have.
However, the whole concept of obstacles is something that I as a founder, have learnt to enjoy. I think we founders tend to find joy from solving really tough problems and overcoming big challenges. 2020 has been one big obstacle, but one as a company we have really enjoyed
tackling. Regardless of what has happened, we still managed to get our MVP out into the market during the height of a global pandemic, gain traction and grow our subscribers and user base.
What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
As an early-stage start-up is it always very exciting to get your first customers and see some traction after going through months of testing and product validation. This was a big moment for us. To see your product in the app stores is very exciting and it is really rewarding to hear such positive feedback from our users already. Since the launch of our MVP in June this year, we’ve seen over 900% growth in downloads, as well as over 300% growth in revenue- in such a short period of time.
How are you measuring your success? What are your metrics?
As a startup and a business, it is very easy to get bogged down by vanity metrics that look good for investors. However, at the end of the day what’s most important to us, is to measure the impact on children and their learning. Ultimately, children’s success acts as our North star and guides us, to ensure we focus fully on their learning development. With this in mind, we can work to make sure we deliver the most amount of education in the least amount of time. This is reflected on our Google and Apple app store reviews and ratings. As a company we are still learning and evolving and there is a lot to do. We are sober to the truth that our main priority is to deliver results to children and create a Better, Brighter Future.
What keeps you up at night/what are you paranoid about?
For any business, one of the biggest priorities is ensuring your business is well funded- we aren’t any different. When you are raising a round, the anxiety comes from making sure you close the round and do so without running out of runway. As and when you close the round, a different type of anxiety starts. That is ensuring you start delivering on everything you promised before you run out of money- and you achieve the traction and revenue in the agreed time frame. This of course has a massive effect on a founder’s mental health, and it is one of the many things that keeps a founder up at night.
We also have to focus on product development. In software nothing is ever black and white, and it is hard to put a time frame in place. If something is going to go wrong, it will. It can be very unpredictable to create something really impactful – it is not easy. It comes with a lot of challenges. As a team, we spend a lot of time and energy solving these constant challenges and figuring things out.
2020 has taught me anything can happen. Ultimately – as a founder, I am now considering the absolute black swan events when planning, which is never pleasant, because it means we are planning for things that may or not happen. As we have seen and experienced this year- we have been hit by a huge curve ball that no one saw coming. However, to end on a high, this is part of the day-to-day challenges and as any founder will admit- it is exciting and exhilarating. Black swan events such as 2020 teach you an abundance of skills and patience for the future and prepare you for the next event.
Do you see yourself as an underdog?
Absolutely. From the outset, as a company we have been an underdog. Being a first-time founder from an ethnic minority, who is dyslexic- not a University graduate and an immigrant, coming into the tech and education scenes was very challenging. I have definitely had my work cut out for me and it has often been hard to get early traction and support, as I have had to further prove myself and the business.
Stories of founders from more prestigious backgrounds often surfacing faster has not deterred me, in fact, it has become a driving force. It has been the source of my hunger and it is what keeps me motivated. It gives us as a company, even more of a reason to fight and prove something. We are small and in our early years, but we have big dreams and ambitions, and we will not stop, until we reach our vision and create a level playing field for all children.
How many hours of sleep do you get and what is your morning/evening routine?
I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep and I try to make sure I have some work/life balance, however that can be hard when your work consumes most of your time. Therefore, a typical day starts from around 4.30am until I go to sleep. It is often hard to switch off, as you are thinking about your company, the next decisions, the growth and your roadmap, on a continuous basis. This company means everything to me, so if it means I work late and start early for the time being, then I am committed to doing so.
How far are you willing to go to see your idea become a success?
As any founder/CEO would most likely say, they would rather cut off their left arm than give up. It is that kind of resilience and commitment that is required to see your idea become a reality and a success. This level of resilience is paramount in tough times like this, when it is very easy to just walk away and give up, but you would rather go through that pain to see your vision come to fruition.
What are the future implications of the technology you are developing? Have you considered that it could have negative consequences for some people? How would you deal with that?
Of course. Our app is created for children, therefore there is an extreme level of caution needed to be taken in terms of GDPR, confidentiality and security. There is a lot of skepticism around technology and children, so we also have to strike a balance in educating parents on what is a good level of screen time and what isn’t. We are very conscious to keep all of this in mind throughout our development processes. We have an obligation to be ethically moral- which is something we take very
seriously. We work with parents, children, schools, teachers as well as Brunel University London – to ensure that our product and company is properly validated, secure and is monitored by the relevant ethics boards for approval.
What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
Our goal over the next year is to have 100% Maths content for our app (which is curriculum aligned). Then move onto adding English and Science, whilst ensuring our content library is constantly updated. We will then look to venture out globally- first to English native speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand, the US and then further- which we are very excited about! We also plan on expanding our team and doing new funding rounds.
To learn more about Ibrahim and Bright Idea Education/Cosmico, visit: www.cosmico.app