Last month’s instalment of Tomorrow’s Leaders featured the
team from Lifeline
24 and this month we’re speaking to James Gupta about his innovative online
revision platform, Synap. We
asked James about his start-up journey and how he created what he claims to be
the world’s most intelligent study tool.
What’s the story of Synap in a nutshell?
I’m a (non-practising) medical doctor. Synap
is a company I set up at medical school and have now decided to pursue as a
full time career. I’m a passionate geek, having been programming for a number
of years and developing the first versions of Synap, and also have an interest
in start-ups, entrepreneurship and crowdfunding.
My co-founder and I were in our third year studying medicine
at Leeds University. We were looking for a more engaging way to study and
started to write questions for each other and other people in our year, posting
them on Facebook originally. This became more popular over time and we scaled
it into a blog and eventually a website and mobile app that became Synap.
was essentially that, if we can break down studying into short ‘chunks’ which
people can engage with when they’re waiting for a train or having a coffee,
then it would make it easier to stick to a study schedule and learn more
How do you stand out from the competition?
Synap is an
intelligent online training platform that helps people to learn more in less
time. We do this by breaking down any training topic into short 5 minute chunks
which people can practice anytime, anywhere.
Synap lets people engage with multiple choice quizzes, and in the background we
analyse which areas people are performing well in, and which they need more
help with. Synap uses that information to create a personalised plan for each
user, and we’ve demonstrated over the last few years that people who follow
that plan do demonstrably better in exams.
What is your biggest business challenge so far?
challenge we’ve had is that we were still studying full time when Synap became popular.
We didn’t expect it to become a fully-fledged business when we started, so we
hadn’t necessarily considered a bunch of things such as how we scale it or make
What’s your secret to success?
being ‘super users’ of our own product has been incredibly helpful. As my
co-founder and I were using Synap as a tool to get through our own exams each
year, we were able to create something really fine-tuned to our needs, and
therefore to other students’ needs.
that now to make sure that first and foremost, we have a really great product,
I think is really important.
What has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey?
turning point for us was establishing a partnership with Oxford University
Press, which let us offer some of their most popular materials online via
Synap. This marked our first paid offering and really let us scale the business
thing was moving into the workplace learning space. We were initially
approached by mytaxi to create a white-labelled platform to train new taxi
drivers. That project went really well, more than tripling the pass rate and
creating 100 new jobs for the company in a few months, and since then we’ve
been working with companies in a range of sectors from health & safety and
financial services to education and healthcare.
We won the
‘Northern Stars’ competition late last year which was a great experience and
has led to some really exciting developments. We’d just graduated so had only
been ‘full time’ on Synap for a couple of months.
What advice would you give to an aspiring start-up company?
doubt, trust your gut instinct – it’s probably what led you to start your own
business in the first place.
super-user of your own product.
that just because you can get people to use your product, you can get them to
pay for it.
What will the future bring for Synap?
already been a really exciting year for us. Along with 9 other companies, we’re
thrilled to be a part of PwC’s first ‘Scale Yorkshire’ programme, which is
helping to connect us with some very interesting clients and shape our offering
for corporate training.
If you would like to become part of our Tomorrow’s Leaders
series let us know on Twitter at @viking_chat.