It’s never too early to start a business, says 19 y/o CEO

One of the defining features of an entrepreneur is that, when most people see a problem, they see an opportunity. They find solutions to problems, and someone somewhere is going to pay for that solution. Indy Griffiths, CEO and co-founder of Parent Interviews, recognised a sizeable opportunity before he had even left high school.

Our education system is full of opportunities, because the bulk of entrepreneurial ventures focus on business, consumers, and technology. While everything else has changed, pens, paper, and text books are still a staple in most class rooms. (Get it?)

Parent Interviews aims to solve just one of the problems that is encountered in the current analog education system. Most schools utilise a physical booking form to schedule interviews with parents and teachers. It is the responsibility of the child to deliver the form to the parent, but Indy says that the forms usually get lost in the bottom of back packs. 

So in 2012, when Indy was 17, he and some mates built a cloud-based app that allows schools to manage parent/teacher interviews online. Parents can book times to see their children’s teachers through an easy-to-use platform online. It fully services the market. There are features like campus maps to help parents find classrooms and offices. Parent Interviews allows you to book multiple meetings with multiple teachers, but it will alert you if you have scheduled back to back interviews. The app is very comprehensive, and schools are loving it.

The project originated in Indy’s Digital Media class at Bayfield High School, one of Dunedin’s top schools. Indy said that, at the time, their school was running parent teacher interviews and his mum was booking her interviews to see his teachers, but couldn’t figure out which times were free or unavailable.

“I pitched the idea to my IT teacher, and he thought it would be a good project for my assessment, which eventually turned into the basis of my scholarship portfolio in 2012 and again in 2013,” Indy said.

Two other classmates joined the team as co-founders and began developing the idea. Matthew Baird acts as CFO and keeps an eye on the books, while Evan Amezcua is Parent Interview’s designer. Indy Griffiths is the CEO.

The team went to a Young Enterprise presentation which was running a competition for high school students who wanted to start a business. Mentors said that the idea had potential as a viable product, but Indy decided that it would be better to start the company themselves. Two years later, 50 schools around New Zealand are using Parent Interviews. The app has between 2000-6000 monthly users, and over 150,000 interviews have been conducted using the software.

Much of it has been Indy’s doing, but he says that many people have helped to start the company and test the website.

“Evan and Matt as co-founders obviously had a big part to play,” he said. “My IT teacher Rob Wood was my mentor for my Scholarship portfolio, giving us support and advice through the whole process; without him Parent Interviews would still be an idea floating around my head.

“The staff and parents of Bayfield High School were our beta testers, and feedback gathered during parent teacher interviews helped shape the end result. The people who follow me on Twitter have also been a huge help with feedback and general advice, each with their own role in helping create Parent Interviews.”

The next step for the company is an investment round, which will be used to advertise directly to schools in an effort to fuel growth and expansion in markets like Australia or the United States. “New Zealand has a finite number of schools,” Indy said, “but our product can be easily adaptable for schools in other markets.”

Indy has a bright future ahead of him. He’s achieved this much and he’s only 19, but sometime his age can be an obstacle when businesspeople can’t see past it.

“One case sticks out in my mind where we had a potential school who liked Parent Interviews,” Indy explained, “but they didn’t like the fact it was run by a couple of teenagers and refused to do business with us.”

“Sometimes it hurts, as I am very serious about the work we do and how we portray ourselves,” he said, “[but] at the end of the day, they’re the ones missing out on something that would be incredibly beneficial for their school.”

Indy’s advice to other entrepreneurs in a similar age bracket is to give it a go if you have an idea that fills a need, even if it’s something as odd as parent teacher interview management.

“People may doubt you or think you shouldn’t try,” he says, “but if you really believe in it, keep going.”

“There have been times where I’ve doubted myself and thought “what the hell am I doing”, but when I look now and see that we’ve booked over 150,000 interviews for over 27,000 students across New Zealand, knowing that we’ve created something that is used and loved by that many people is best feeling in the world.”

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