Startup To Watch: Zen Educate

Here at Work In Startups, we’re on a mission to champion the best and most exciting startups in the UK. To support this, we’re starting a new blog series highlighting some of the most innovative and fast-growing startups around. Follow us as we interview startup founders across the country and find out more about their goals and ambitions, what the future holds and (for all you startup jobseekers out there looking for the inside scoop) what they look for in a prospective employee.

This week, we’re interviewing Slava Kremerman, Co-Founder and CEO of Zen Educate – a digital teacher recruitment agency that is revolutionising the way schools find supply teachers. Zen Educate has just raised £5.6m of funding in a round led by ed-tech VC Brighteye Ventures and is growing fast, hiring equally as fast and radically disrupting the education staffing sector. 

Hi Slava! What would you say Zen Educate’s mission is? 

Our mission is to improve the education system. Zen Educate is an accredited social enterprise, so it’s core to who we are. All schools need teachers and traditionally if a teacher is away,  they call a recruitment agent. This is poor value for money and inefficient. We help schools cut out the middleman by providing an online platform for their hiring needs. This helps them save time and money, and it also helps teachers take back control, as they know where and when they can work in advance, and benefit from exceptional support and great rates. 

Your growth over the past few years has been pretty astonishing. What does 2020 hold in store for Zen Educate? 

As you’ve mentioned, we’ve just raised £5.6m in funding from Brighteye Ventures, an EdTech focused European VC, and this comes off the back of significant business growth. We’re tripling as a business year over year and hiring more people as a result. 6 months ago, we were a team of 20 and now we’re a team of 50 – which is an exciting place to be.

We currently work with over 4,000 teachers in Greater London and Manchester, not to mention numerous schools, and there’s definitely a lot of room to grow in these areas. We’re also launching in Birmingham in Q1 of 2020, which we’re looking forward to. Beyond the UK, inefficiencies in education staffing exist all over the world and few companies are poised to do something about this. A few education staffing platforms are having a lot of success in the US, but this business model has yet to reach continental Europe, Asia and Africa. As such, there are enormous global opportunities for Zen Educate.

What do you look for in an employee?

Value fit is key. Without giving too much away, we’re very deliberate about our hiring process and hire people who closely align with Zen Educate’s values. 

We look for three main things:

  1. People that care about what we do – if the mission inspires you, that’s a big reason to join
  2. People that act like owners who thrive on autonomy
  3. People that push themselves to be better by consistently choosing greatness over comfort

Do you have any advice for young people just starting their careers?

Life is short and fleeting, so work on stuff that means something to you. Even if this means changing your career drastically, do it. Life is too short to not be doing work that matters to you. 

Do you have any advice for those thinking about founding their own startup but currently unsure?

Do it x1,000,000. You want to tell your grandkids about the person you became, not the person you could have been, so don’t wait! Once you decide to take the leap, speak to people and get advice. Find successful founders and suck up information from them like a sponge. Founders love helping other Founders. This will help you navigate challenges and opportunities that come your way. 

On a personal note, before co-founding Zen Educate, I worked at Nutmeg – a very successful startup – for a few years. I went on that journey from the small team to a big team and learnt a lot in the process. Going on a journey with another company in the early stages is a great way to learn what it takes to build a successful company.

And…. Zen Educate is Hiring!

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