George Burgess is the CEO and founder of popular educational app Gojimo, which aims to help students who are studying for their exams. George is one of Britain’s most talented entrepreneurs and at only 24 years old, there is still much more he wants to achieve.
We caught up with George to find out his tips for entrepreneurial success, the steps he took in creating his business, and how he fought exam stress.
Hi George, thank you for taking the time to chat with us.
You are only 24 but have already made your mark in the world of business; have you always had ambitions of setting up your own company?
I was very entrepreneurial as a teenager and enjoyed running a number of small businesses, including an eBay shop and a filming company.
I fell into the world of apps because I saw it as an exciting new opportunity and I've been in love with the tech sector ever since.
Tell us about Gojimo, does your app cater to students of all academic levels?
Gojimo is the UK's most popular revision app and helps secondary school students studying for their GCSEs and A Levels. This year, about 1 in 3 GCSE and A Level students in the UK accessed Gojimo in the exam season.
What key skills did you need to master in order to create your app and make it a success?
I'm not a developer myself so I had to learn enough about development to be capable of managing developers effectively. This came with time and practice and being tech-savvy now helps when recruiting new developers.
I quickly learnt that being charismatic, understanding other company's priorities and cultures, and networking with the right people were key to partnership success. On the marketing side, I learnt a lot by reading marketing and growth hacking blogs and through trial and error.
The areas I'm more involved in are marketing and partnerships. We've been very successful in working with publishers historically, this includes building apps for BBC Bitesize and with Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill Education.
For anyone who wants to set up their own internet business, what advice would you give to them?
Get on with it and give it a go! These days there is nothing stopping anyone (of any age) from starting an internet business. Most young people I meet simply don't have the confidence to try it.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your own business?
I followed the Innocent Smoothie founders as a youngster, and they've always inspired me, having built a hugely successful company using limited outside resources. We're very lucky to now have them as investors in Gojimo. In addition, Richard Branson has always been an inspiration after I read his biography when I was 13.
What else do you want to achieve, both personally and professionally?
I want to have a large, positive impact on the world. I found myself in the education sector by mistake but have learnt to love it because it satisfies a part of me which wants to 'do good' (as cliched as that might sound).
In terms of my (limited) spare time, I'm fortunate to have travelled a fair amount and would like to continue doing so; I'd also like to learn to brew beer!
When you were a student at Stanford University you dropped out before finishing your degree. What are your thoughts on the conventional education system and why wasn’t the university right route for you?
Today, many of us are too set on having a university degree when they aren't applicable or useful to everyone. I always knew I wanted to run my own business and when Gojimo started to take off while I was still at university, it didn't make sense to me to sacrifice the success of the business in order to complete my degree. I learnt more from running Gojimo and the experience has made me more employable than a college degree ever could.
Did exam pressure get to you when you were a student?
In my GCSE years it certainly did, mostly because I didn't know how to deal with the pressures that came from taking so many exams in such a short space of time. I felt overwhelmed, but I did pretty well which reassured me in the run up to A Levels.
In addition, I learnt (partly through running some unsuccessful small businesses) that failure isn't always the end of the world. If I failed one of my A Levels, it wouldn't be detrimental to my life. I might not go to my first choice university, but my life wouldn't be over!
These days whenever I feel myself getting anxious about something, I think what the worst case scenario would be and most of the time it's not really as bad as it originally seemed.
Across England and Wales this month many school and college students will be anxiously awaiting the results of their GCSEs and A Levels. What advice would you give to students (and parents) who are feeling the stress?
Success and failure are concepts created by the society we're a part of. In reality, if you fail an exam or miss a grade, your life will still go on.
GCSE or A Level results might feel like the most crucial thing in the world right now but there are much more important things in life. Ultimately, if you set your mind on something you can do it, your exam results aren't going to hold you back.