An insider view from Volo – 2018 cohort

A guest post from

2018 cohort

Lotis Bautista
Co-founder and Chief Community Officer, Volo Group

Mid-way through April we were ecstatic to find ourselves as one of five companies to win a place on the Jisc Edtech Startup Programme. Fast-forward to the start of the programme in May and it has already proven itself to be a turning point for us as individuals and our business. We’ve only just completed Week 3.

As a previous secondary school teacher and now co-founder of a business committed to learning and self-improvement, I can be very sceptical about “training days.” Before I enter the room, I usually consider really carefully whether this will be worth my time and will likely be hypersensitive to every “um” and rabbit-in-headlights look. I’m a tough crowd.

Add to the equation a room full of grown-ups that wear multiple hats to give their businesses a continuous pulse, get them to thrive whilst doing the marketing, strategizing, producing, selling, everything in between and all at once; how do you convince us that spending a day out of the office is really worth it?

Three key questions I ask myself:

  1. Are there clear, tangible outcomes that I can walk away with and implement more or less straight away?
  2. Do the presenters really understand that this is an opportunity for me to learn as both an individual and business owner, not just for them to talk at me?
  3. Do I trust that the people in front of me actually know what they’re talking about?

Needless to say, I was pretty ecstatic to recognise almost immediately that Jisc was likely to provide a very clear “Yes” to all of above.

Getting down to business

Day 1 of the programme- The phone call started with something similar to: “Good morning everyone, we’re here to talk you through the programme aims and outcomes and exactly what it is that we want you to get out of this. Afterwards we’ll have plenty of time for questions” Tick. Did those objectives actually make me feel like this was going to help our business? Absolutely.

Week 1 tasks- Company diagnostics: “The purpose of these activities is to make sure that we tailor the content of the kick-off to meet your exact needs, so please make sure to spend time on them.” (Not verbatim, but you get the point) I nearly fell over with excitement. Our actual company needs were being assessed in order to make sure that what we were being taught was completely relevant to where we were at that point in time. Brilliant.

Day 2 of training, Week 2 of the programme- The in-person kick off: Nic, Michael, Sue and Paul lay the groundwork for a day of action. Without giving too much away to future cohorts, there were a lot of us in the room with a lot of different starting and thinking points in terms of business stage, product market fit, validation and “traction” (and other very jargony, but nonetheless important words and even more importantly, action points). Did we all leave with an answer as to what to do next to propel our businesses into the next key stage or at least have something to do immediately to find the important answers that we didn’t already have? Yes.

Next steps

A few more weeks in and we are being prompted into our next set of actions: Do you know exactly who your customer segments are? Are you actually solving a Tier 1 problem? Excellent question. Am I?! Are we?! Very few sessions in the past have given me exciting existential angst. This is exactly what a young business needs.

The final verdict? Anyone can stand up in front of a room of people and talk shop but very few can stand up and inspire tangible action. Every interaction with Jisc has so far emphasised the importance of value over vanity and the value that they have brought to our business has already been unparalleled. And I’m so pleased to be reminded that at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

Thank you for letting us be part of your cohort.

About Volo:

At VOLO Group, we believe that everyone should have the chance to excel both personally and professionally. That’s why we’ve built career development technology to not only help you discover what you really want out of your career, but to connect you to the right opportunities, information and support to help you get there.

VOLO isn’t like other skill building platforms where you watch video after video telling you how to improve yourself. We connect you to real-life activities and roles where you get hands on experience to help you improve your skills whilst working on projects that make a real difference in the world.

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