Paul Birch and Richard TaylorAd executives and marketing mavens should take a look the recent success of entrepreneurs Paul Birch (co-founder of Bebo, pictured left) and education consultant Richard Taylor (creator of The Assignment Report, pictured right) in setting up and selling their successful Tutpup maths and English games website - and shudder.

Tutpup, a beta (pre-release) product which has just been sold for an undisclosed sum to Mind Candy, gained 250,000 young users worldwide, including 50,000 in the UK within about three months. These learners competed anonymously with one another online, mainly in maths activities, and all this was achieved without a single advertisement or a marketing budget. Word spread online through blogs.

Similar in approach to Mathletics, an Australian service, Tutpup (left) dealt neatly with worries about internet safety by making activities totally anonymous. No player could know the identities of the people they played, or communicate with them. This probably added to its popularity, appealing to unconfident learners who might want to sharpen their maths capabilities without anyone knowing who they were.

tutpup screen

Paul Birch and Richard Taylor had been working on the project for some time and it went live as a beta site in the summer of 2008. "It shows that something that's simple, competitive and fun can really engage kids, and that you can create a business out of it," says Richard Taylor. "We made sure there was no barrier to using it, and put 'school tools' on to support teachers with issues like class registration sop it could be used in classrooms too."

The response to the launch was dramatic. At one point the Tutpup team was getting up to 100 emails a day from learners, teachers and parents. An early adopter school in Georgia, USA, introduced it to their disengaged kids who promptly did 230 hours of tutpup in their own time. "We played against them from our own office," added Richard Taylor. "They were going bonkers in the classroom but this teacher did not feel threatened by that and simply channelled their enthusiasm to get them to do something they normally would not go near - maths.

"One of the reasons for doing it was radical in that we didn't have to have any kind of accreditation or curriculum - the kids could use it as little or as much as they liked. In school or out, they were the only one who knows how they were doing. The key thing for a service like this is is that you don't have to have a marketing budget to get people using it. You can have the biggest marketing budget in the world but that's no guarantee that kids or teachers will use your service." Marketeers take note.

More information
Richard Taylor will be available at BETT 2009
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The Assignment Report

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