In America, companies are formed in garages; in Britain, we favour the kitchen.
“I wanted it to have purpose; a usefulness in society. Teachers didn’t know how their kids were doing; the pupils that needed help.” James Leeds, CEO.
Pupil Asset was born out of a teacher in need. That teacher was Debbie Cooke. She needed a database to help in her Norwich school. With the help of Mike Cooke, her husband, a project manager for the National Grid for Learning at Norfolk County Council, they set up an Excel spreadsheet. Immediately they began to struggle with its limitations.
It was 2008. The Cloud was going mainstream and Google unleashed Chrome into the world, turning the browser into a bona-fide ‘desktop in the cloud’.
Enter James Leeds, software developer and best friend of their son, Joe Cooke.
“I remember saying, why don’t you Google it and see if there’s something you can use? There must be something. There was nothing.”
Debbie took James into her school. He couldn’t believe how bad the software was.
Around Debbie and Mike’s kitchen table at home, an idea was born, and a business began.
“We were online right from the start, which meant that all the teachers could use it at the same time, which was a big deal at the time.”
The three friends had the perfect combination of educational know-how, contacts, and technical expertise. “It was very intense,” James says. The newly-named Pupil Asset grew quickly from 20 schools to around 50 the following year. “We were really excited with every single school. We knew each one. We were all completely involved. Our big difference was the way we did it in colours - that’s what made it easy for teachers because you could just look at it and see at a glance how a child was doing.”
The team grew organically as the business expanded and Pupil Asset developed its own Management Information Systems (MIS) product.
Pupil Asset became part of a Future50, a network of the fastest growing companies in Norfolk and Suffolk, supported the government’s Regional Growth Fund, and is now a successful pet-leader, employing 26 staff (including Joe Cooke, Pupil Asset’s Head of Support), trains many of its developers in-house, and employs apprentices.
From kitchen table to three offices spread across the thousand-year old city of Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Pupil Asset has come a long way in a short time.
“A lot of people have copied us over years – in a way it’s complimentary, we must be doing something great!”