A Chat with Ian McCartney, Co-Founder and CEO at EdTech Company: PLYTIME Learning

PLYTIME Learning is an online learning company aiming to make learning support more effective and affordable so that it works better for students, parents, and tutors.


How did you come up with the idea for the company?

Our journey started in 2008 when we created a maths game for our own children. We’ve always loved playing games at home and we’re all quite competitive so we wanted to make something that we could have fun with and that could improve the children’s maths at the same time.

Unfortunately, in the same year I contracted Lyme disease and was eventually forced to take time off work, but I needed something to keep myself occupied. I was able to make prototypes of the game that my wife, Lisa, took into our children’s school to play – and the children and teachers loved it. Once we realised that it could really help children and saw how much they enjoyed it, we felt we had no choice but to produce it – and PLYT Games was born.

After a while, we began tutoring using our games and we noticed how children quickly developed their maths skills and importantly, how they had fun while doing so. Over the next couple of years, we tutored over 200 children.  It really worked and they clearly enjoyed learning through playing competitive games, but concentration over a long period of time was often a struggle. That’s why we created Focus 15® – short, focused tutoring sessions to fit the optimal attention span and it’s basically the same reason that TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes.  The results were encouraging, and it was so fulfilling to see children increase their confidence in maths. We knew we could make a real difference and that’s when we decided to take PLYTIME Learning online.



How has the company evolved during the pandemic?


During the pandemic, we developed and launched our MVP. We partnered with thestartupfactory.tech to build the platform but everything was done remotely. The first time we met face to face was 9 months into the project and it was much harder to really thrash out the detailed specifications over zoom.

All employees were also recruited during lockdown – including 5 Kickstarters – but unfortunately, we never had the chance to meet them all in person. From a “team” point of view it’s a very different experience, especially when it comes to building relationships, but we’ve been very fortunate to find some great people.

We’ve realised that it’s even more important to help children with tutoring. The pandemic has resulted in a huge amount of learning loss and exacerbated the need for extra educational support.


What can we hope to see from PLYTIME Learning in the future?


In the next few months, we will have the results of our research project with a leading North West University, to quantify how much more effective our shorter 15-minute tutoring sessions are than the alternatives. We recently secured our first round of investment and will be looking to raise further investment towards the end of the year.

Our initial launch centred around primary maths, which we celebrated by offering a free trial – we now have multiple people registered on the site and tutors have started delivering their first sessions! This is just the beginning for us though, and we plan to expand into all primary subjects as soon as possible. Longer term, we’ll also offer secondary level subjects so that students can get the support they need, dipping in and out throughout their academic careers.