Tijntje Louwers – Squla

Tijntje Louwers – Squla

Tijntje Louwers is Chief Commercial Officer at Squla, the platform that facilitates children’s educational development, offering them quizzes, games and videos that cover the whole school curriculum. “10 years ago, when Squla was founded, primary schools hardly used the available technology,” Tijntje explains. “Laptops were mostly used by people at home and tablets were booming, but didn’t yet exist in classrooms. Educational publishers did little to change this, and hardly invested in digital content. Squla understood that there was a market opportunity for digital educational content, and because we combine this with gamification and an attractive user experience design, children also enjoy using it at home.” Recently Squla broadened its focus from primary school to secondary school with the acquisition of WRTS. Tijntje explains: “WRTS is well-known among students as a platform to practice words, but we are ambitious to develop opportunities to grow this platform as well.” Squla’s business is concentrated on the Netherlands and Poland.

Measuring brand growth

Tijntje: “KPI’s that we track include awareness and preference; we track these bi-annually. And on a continuous basis we measure school- and home-usage. Usage data is a very important source of information; for each question we measure the percentage that answers it correctly. As a rule-of-thumb we know that that should be between 65 and 85%; questions that are too difficult or too easy, trigger drop-out.  Over 100,000 children use the platform daily, which provides us with a gigantic amount of data. Squla grows in usage with 20-30% each year, which is very healthy. When the platform was first launched, we had anticipated that it would go much faster, but apparently education is a category that takes more time.”

“The key driver of growth is the extent to which we can engage children with our product, so that they continue to make a progress. Consequently, product development is of key importance – to illustrate: our fastest growth was with the introduction of the mobile app that suddenly made Squla accessible to children in kindergarten.”

A market that didn’t exist before

“We operate in a market that didn’t exist before,” Tijntje explains. “Traditionally the market for educational content was owned by publishers of schoolbooks, who had a single-minded focus on schools; education for children used to be a B2B-domain. Product development therefore used to be centred around teachers’ needs, with less attention to engaging children. We have deliberately chosen a different approach. We wanted to make the content attractive for children, to also use at home. This was very uncommon at the time. We have created this market.
Today, Squla’s brand awareness is very high, and we dominate the market. Our Top of Mind awareness is 45% and the number-2 brand is a fraction of it. Consequently, we can hardly benchmark with others, and define our own path for growth. In our communication we want to further address the specific benefits that we offer, that address specific consumer needs. We have built our position in the home-market and were quickly adopted by schools as well. Children like our product a lot, but as it goes for all games it is a challenge to keep their attention for a longer period of time. To avoid that they drop out, we enrich the content related to the school curriculum with monthly themes, in which we cooperate with partners – in May we have a Honeybee-theme, developed with OER, and in June we work with the KNVB (Dutch Football Association) for the Women’s World Cup-theme.”

“Until recently, we only had one product,” Tijntje continues. “Although the content of the online platform is of course adapted to different age groups. Recently we added new products to address specific needs; such as a product aimed at children who struggle with spelling (TaalExtra), and WoordExtra, a free pre-school programme developed for children with a language deficiency.”

The role of innovation
For Squla innovation is a continuous process: “I would define innovation as developing products or services to make something better; that can be more fun, interesting, relevant. Our most important recent innovation has been the integration of speech-to-text. Although English is not an official part of the curriculum yet, the demand for it had been increasing for some time. However, pronunciation is a key element in studying a language. We have invested a lot of development time in adapting the existing speech-to-text technology for children, so that it is also suited for children that miss two teeth, or who are practising in a full classroom. Another development is adaptivity; making the content fit for different levels. This is a combination of an algorithm based on the right content being served, and a user interface that gives the control to the children. And next to that we also launched recently a method for kids with spelling problems and dyslexia, this offer means an enormous step forward in this complex field; the existing materials were quite old-fashioned and based on 1-on-1 support. This was not inviting to the majority of children and at the same time not affordable for everybody. We created the most fun way of improving your spelling together with dyslexia experts, for every child accessible.

Prioritising innovation focus
Tijntje: “In the past few years we have invested in a data science team and we are now able to test new features in a controlled environment before launching these. A good example of this are the ‘bosses’ that we have introduced in the middle of our quizzes; animated characters that are sad when the answer is right and the other way around. We have set an engagement objective for this feature; fighting the bosses should motivate the children to play longer, something that we can measure in behaviour data. Next to behavioural engagement we have recently started a pilot to measure emotional engagement as well, also among children – which is much more of a challenge than it would be among an adult target group.”

“We have to be selective in what we are doing – a major bottle neck is the limited capacity of developers. And we have a lot of ideas, sourced from Kids Lab, parents’ comments in the NPS-tracking and our own team. Data is an important tool to decide which areas require priority, and which experiments are best suited to carry out.”

Involving the users
“We regularly invite children in our office to play with new products or features to collect input. Or we ask them to do some homework in preparation and invite them to share their experiences. We use this to gain insight in a wide range of questions; to understand expectations, to generate ideas, to test prototypes, etc. We mostly facilitate these groups ourselves. We realise though that we should not make decisions purely based on input from the Amsterdam-region, and therefore regularly conduct quantitative research as a follow-up.”

“We like integrating new technologies, but we are not jumping on each development. An example is the attention to VR a few years ago. We have been looking into VR, but didn’t find a strong fit to our objectives. Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is something that could become very relevant, so we keep a close eye to these developments.”

“Education is a topic that raises many discussions, for instance the debate about the necessity to tailor the offer to individual needs. I am sure that technological solutions can play an important role in personalisation, and that the role of technology in education will strongly increase towards the future.”