Mark went from serving 4 years in the Australian Army to learning how to code in order to develop Xplor, a childcare management system and day care app that has gone on to raise venture funding from one of Australia’s best VC’s. Here’s the story of Mark and Xplor.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF (ANY CO-FOUNDERS) AND YOUR STARTUP?
The Xplor story begins in 2003 at the Recruit Training Camp in Kapooka. Mark Woodland was considering National Service in the Australian Army and was assigned to the Royal Australian Artillery Corps. Working as an Artillery Gunner, Mark served 4 years before being transferred to the Australian Psychology Corps. He worked with soldiers returning from deployment and spent the rest of his time training new recruits.
In 2010 Mark’s mother bought a childcare centre to support children on their educational journey. Mark left the Australian Army to support his mother in her new business. Frustrated by the outdated systems and not being able to afford an app developer Mark taught himself to code and over the next few years, Mark developed Xplor. In 2016 Mark and Fay caught the attention of not only the education community, but the world at large who had become disenchanted by the childcare industry and lack of support to families; Mark and Fay provided a glimpse of hope, with their innovative approach to education.
Realising that a greater impact on education could be achieved through improving the software of services in January 2016, Mark and Fay sold their 3 childcare centres. Mark re-invested the money from the sale and Xplor was officially born. With this investment, the newly incorporated team made the upgrade from childcare office to Xplor’s first office: a small room in Melbourne that seated 4 people. 4 laptop computers, a beanbag, and bright blue t-shirts set the scene for those early days and late nights. (The tradition of keeping things colourful continues to this day.)
Even in the beginning, things were unconventional: from Xplor’s weird staff games (eating chilli sauces) to the interstate trips, captured the spirit of our intentionally unconventional methods.
In the year that followed, the company expanded rapidly with Airtree Ventures investing in Xplor — hiring engineers, building a sales team, and introducing the first company pet, Vince.
Xplor outgrew the 4 seat room and eventually moved to our current headquarters (a.k.a.“The Launchpad”) in Melbourne’s Bourke Street. The relentless efforts to change education (our mission still to this day) to find better ways to teach continues to be at the core of everything we do.
Today, with more than 50 employees in 4 different countries, Xplor makes incredible products used by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, from Xplor Care to Xplor Schools. Although we’ve ditched the beanbags and chilli sauce, our passion to relentlessly change education by building amazing technology has stayed with us — from the Army Fields, to childcare, and to this very day; this is Xplor.
HOW DID YOU GO FROM IDEA, TO MVP AND LAUNCH?
My mother a retired school principal had opened her childcare service in suburban Melbourne but found herself bogged down in administration and reporting, rather than engaging with the children.
After listening to how the family business was suffering I took over so my mother could escape the office to focus on teaching. However, as I became frustrated with what I saw as an archaic system of multiple data entry, numerous reporting systems and constant reassurance of parents. I resolved to find a better way.
After an approaching an app developer who quoted me a stupid amount of money for my crazy idea to incorporate all the operations into one, I taught myself how to code and developed the software myself.
It was the skeleton for what has become Xplor, an end-to-end operating system that allows childcare centres to communicate in real time with the children’s parents by sharing photos, messages and videos while also accepting payments, monitoring data and managing reporting obligations.
What turned out to be my small problem was actually something services around the world face everyday.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE DURING THIS PERIOD AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
Given our rapid growth and demand for the Xplor product we have had to scale a team very rapidly. This has included getting team members up to speed in very short time frames whilst maintaining an incredible culture.
DURING THIS JOURNEY TO BUILD AND LAUNCH YOUR STARTUP WHAT IS ONE THING YOU LOOK BACK ON WITH A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT?
Xplor has gone from the new kid on the block to being the second largest education software in the market. This is an incredible achievement for the team.
OFFER US ONE INSIGHT, TIP, MARKETING STRATEGY OR GROWTH HACK THAT HAS WORKED REALLY WELL FOR YOU AND YOUR STARTUP?
Don’t do it for the money; life is too short. Find your passion, back yourself and do it. And don’t give up.
HOW IS YOUR STARTUP GOING AND WHAT DO YOU AIM TO ACHIEVE IN THE NEXT 3, 6, 12 MONTHS?
Xplor’s growth has been mostly organic. We have been so busy coping with the rollout demand for Xplor that we have had to turn away investors. In eight months, Xplor grew from four staff to 40 and is now in 1200 Australian childcare centres, 350 in Malaysia, 100 in the US and 36 in the UK. It has expanded into schools, family day care and has had interest from the aged-care sector.
On the back of the US and UK success, we will head up an Xplor presence in America from June 2018.