Startup Twingl switches to Chrome plugin for education tracking tool

Software startup Twingl, which raised $100,000 from the Lighting Lab accelerator programme, has abandoned plans to develop its education track tool as a standalone product in favour of a plug-in for Google's Chrome web browser.

The Wellington-based company, whose tool tracks a student's learning process, raised more than its targeted $90,000 from a syndicate of angel investors through AngelHQ and some independent investors, chief executive Andy Wilkinson told BusinessDesk. The company initially planned to build a standalone product and had been working through a number of fixes, before feedback from users encouraged a switch to developing an extension on Google's Chrome web browser.

"We've had a major change half-way through," Wilkinson said. "Based on feedback, it would be a big effort to try to fix those bugs and it was better to use a browser extension."

Twingl's Trailblazer Chrome plug-in is being trialled in 15 schools around New Zealand. It records a student's browsing history like a flow-chart, showing their path in researching a school topic.

Wilkinson said Chrome was the logical choice for a browser extension, having the biggest market share, and a direct distribution channel to the education sector through Google's play store.

Twingl is using the funds raised to help pay for the pilot programmes and continue product development, which Wilkinson says will last until January unless they go ahead with plans to take on a contractor or two. The startup will embark on a second round of raising capital next month.

The company has also reassessed its plans to make its product commercially viable. When pitching the tool at the Lightning Lab's demonstration day in May, Wilkinson said Twingl was targeting schools, particularly charter schools in the US, as prospective buyers. Now the company plans to sell the aggregated data from the Trailblazer plug-in as a resource for educational institutes either by itself or as part of an online subscription-based service with a revenue sharing agreement.

"It makes more sense to target students directly or through the schools for free," Wilkinson said.

In New Zealand there were 762,400 students enrolled in primary, intermediate and secondary schools in 2013, plus a further 369,600 in tertiary education.

"It's a few years off at the very least," he said. "We'll find out the class of topics people are interested in, then partner with premium high-quality content providers, maybe advertisers, to allow people to get on-call access to subscription magazine articles."