Jamaicans in Business: Gordon Swaby, CEO, EduFocalPublished Mar 27, 2013
At 14, Gordon created his first major website, and at 15, he created, perhaps the largest gaming website in the English speaking Caribbean, the now defunct advance-gamers.com. Gordon is the CEO and Founder of EduFocal.com. EduFocal is an interactive learning community. The company is focused on using technology to enrich the learning experience outside of the classroom as well as to help ideate and innovate the way we move forward with technology in education.
EduFocal offers preparatory questions for the GSAT and CSEC programmes, presented in a manner akin to popular role-playing games (RPG). As students go through and complete the questions on EduFocal’s website, they are rewarded with experience points which allow them to ‘level up’. The more experience points students get and the higher up in levels they go, they will be able to unlock rewards from EduFocal.
Q: Are you a business person or entrepreneur or both?
I would say that I’m an entrepreneur. I think that we’ve created a very unique service that students find very appealing.
Q: Tell us about EduFocal?
EduFocal is an online social learning for GSAT and CSEC students. I’ve said in many instances that when I was creating EduFocal I wanted to create something from a student perspective and not from a teacher’s perspective, i.e I wanted to create something that students would enjoy using. I wanted them to use EduFocal not because their parents insist, but because they genuinely want to use it.
EduFocal offers test prep questions and answers for GSAT and CSEC students with a spin. A core part of the EduFocal service is a concept called gamification. Gamification is the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems. EduFocal utilizes a few game mechanics, specifically the concept of “leveling up”. So, students will answer questions which they will earn “experience points” for if the questions are correct which allows them to level up. Once students have levelled up they have the opportunity to earn small prizes, e.g phone credit, movie tickets etc.
Q: What was your profession before you started EduFocal?
My only “real” job was writing at the Gleaner company as a teenager. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never worked in any corporate environment ( EduFocal aside!)
Q: Who or what motivated you to go into business?
My mantra for as long as I can remember has always been “Always an employer, never an employee”. I’m very passionate about creating opportunities for other people. Creating something from nothing is very hard, but I love what I do and could never see myself being anything else but an entrepreneur.
Q: What are the most important things you have learned running your business?
Q: Which characteristics do you possess that you consider to have contributed to your business success?
I'm a very goal oriented person. I think my obsessive planning and stick-to-itiveness has helped me to have the kind of success I have at this point.
Q: What are the secrets to being a successful business person?
S.m.a.r.t goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. If you apply this to your life not only will you be successful at business, but you'll be successful at anything that you do in life.
Q: Do you have a 'mentor' to guide you?
I have a few mentors. I think mentorship is very important, especially for a young entrepreneur.
Q: What was your best idea that just didn’t make it?
Advance-Gamers, a gaming website that I owned was something I didn't follow through with.
Q: In hindsight, why do you think it failed to reach its potential?
I learned a lot of things from Advance-Gamers, but I think it could have been much bigger than it was. In retrospect if I started it with the intention of running a business it would probably be around today
Q: Let’s talk business. What is your main business model?
Creating value for customers by expanding our educational offering. EduFocal is a learning platform that can be expanded to accomodate not only GSAT and CSEC content, but SATs, CAPE etc
Q: Many businesses have a moment they call their "big break", whether it be a news story, a big contract etc. Have you or your business had that “"big break " yet?
I wouldn’t say we’ve had a “big break”, but launching EduFocal at the Jamaica Pegasus on March 15, 2012 and having the Minister of Education endorse us and other prolific people in Jamaica was a great way to kick things off. The launch was sponsored by the British Caribbean Insurance ( BCIC) and Phase 3 productions. We’re still grateful! Another great milestone for us was our partnership with the Jamaica Observer, one of Jamaica’s major newspaper companies. Please see this aritcle for details of the partnership: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/EduFocal-and-Observer-launch-new-frontier_13448305
Q: Currently what is our biggest business challenge?
New, young and even old companies have challenges. Running a company is a going concern like and each day is a day to innovate and keep relevant in an ever changing world. I wouldn’t highlight any particular problem as our “biggest” challenge.
Q: Other than the money what types of satisfaction do you get out of your work?
I started EduFocal not only because of money but because I think that I can use it as a means of making real change in Jamaica, the caribbean and the world. My greatest satisfaction is adding value to the life of my team members and the amazing students who use our site.
Q: What motivates you on a day to day basis?
Knowing that I’m making my parents proud, inspiring my friends and many other people who I’ve ever never met and will probably never meet is great motivation for me.
Q: How do you motivate people that aren’t close to you and enable them to see your vision?
Selling people on your vision can be very challenging, but once you’ve sold them on it it’s not hard to keep them motivated, inspired and excited.
Q: How do you remind yourself of what’s important?
Q: Are you a member of any Business/entrepreneurs groups or any other networking organization for business/ entrepreneurs people?
I am a member of the Branson Centre of Entreprenurship. First launched in South Africa, the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship is known as a unique launch pad for aspiring business owners to get access to skills training, guidance and mentorship as well as financing opportunities to enable growth.
Q. What time do you wake up and do you have a routine?
I wake up at about 6:00 AM most mornings. I usually read the local and international news, eat, shower and head to work. I’m big on exercise but I’ve been neglecting to do that as of lately.
Q. Do you have any hobbies?
Reading and writing are my main hobbies.
Q. If the economy crashed hard and there was no more room for you in the business sector, what would you do with yourself?
Finding beauty in negative spaces. I am a realist, but I’m also an optimist. No matter how tough things are there are always opportunities. I would examine the needs and wants of people and provide something that I think would be beneficial not only to them, but would also help in growing the country
Q: Seven day, six nights, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…
Silicon Valley or India.
Q: My favorite guilty pleasure is…
Haha. Buying expensive gadgets.
Q: My favorite Jamaican food is…
Ackee and Saltfish and soft yam (What’s the right name for this? Who knows!), haha.
Q: My favorite Jamaican restaurant is…
I can’t say I have a favourite.
Q. Would you rather be able to fly or become (at will) invisible?
That’s a tough choice. I think I’d prefer invisibility.