Posted on October 1, 2018 by staff

20 million questions for Leeds learning platform


A revision platform created by medical students has finished its learning curve as it looks to double in size after answering 20 million questions for people in education and business.

Synap CEO Dr James Gupta was studying medicine from textbooks at Leeds University when he had the idea of making the learning experience more interactive.

He and colleague Dr Omair Vaiyani set up a crude mobile app which allowed them to upload questions to practise with each other in bitesize chunks.

Dr Gupta initially charged £3 for other students to download the app before making it free. “I then went on holiday and we had 15,000 downloads in little over six hours,” he told BusinessCloud.

Users included medical students, airline pilots, martial arts instructors, special needs teachers and even hobbyists. The seed of an education business idea was sown.

“In our final year I did a deal with Oxford University Press for £60,000 so it could use its platform to upload medical content,” he continued.

“They have a bunch of well-respected medical content including a couple of thousand questions for medical students and doctors.

“We transformed them into a native mobile and online experience and sent it out to students.”

It took Synap just three years to go from answering zero questions to ten million. That was in January – and in the nine months since, it has answered another ten million.

Dr Gupta says people across all sectors are using the platform. It has designed custom features for the likes of the US Air Force and mytaxi black cabs, while the highly regulated nature of financial services and healthcare means Synap is especially useful in those sectors.

“People can put their own content on it or use some of the hundreds of thousands of questions we have available,” Dr Gupta said.

“There is theory around when you should revisit something to challenge your brain and strengthen the nerve cells… if your brain has to struggle to recall something, it doesn’t like that.

“It responds by building stronger connections between those nerves – it’s literally like weightlifting.”

The app’s algorithms take several factors into account – such as how people in the user’s position have done in the past and which parts of the content are the most important in order to pass – and tailors questions to the individual.

Dr Gupta says users who choose what they want to study improve one grade – say a C to a B – on average over the course of two months. Those who use its suggestions for questions, however, can improve by two grades – a C to an A.

The firm, based in the Platform building in Leeds, currently employs four people and is looking at turnover of almost a quarter of a million pounds this year.

Dr Gupta says he is looking to expand that to 8-10 staff in the next year – and Leeds is the ideal place to do that.

“The Leeds tech scene has come a long, long way in the last three years since I’ve been here. It’s growing quickly and we’re yet to see where it will peak,” he said.

“There are plenty of graduated and qualified people coming out of Leeds’ four universities. Getting a high proportion of them to stay is key.

“To do that we need to shout about what we’re doing and make them realise they don’t need to go to London or Manchester to get a cool tech start-up job – there’s stuff going on here.”