How iSPY Education came to be.
How did we come up with the idea to build a tool to search for online education? The idea behind the iSPY platform struck me far back in 2005. I had been hired as CEO in a turnaround situation by a UK/US stock photo and film business. They were a public company and had been on a buying spree. The business I inherited was a bit of a mess. The company had acquired 7 businesses and had no idea what to do next. Nothing had been integrated. Each was in a different stage of moving to digital. They were being sued, had less than adequate tech, no idea how to even begin to address the tens of millions of images that needed to be edited, digitized and made available online. So, I hired a small but incredibly talented group who came in, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
Early into our journey, the Creative Director came to me asking for help. There was no easy way to search our competitors and compare what we had to what our competitors offered. So we created a rough search aggregation tool that allowed us to do just that. However, it did the trick. Our team could search and compare content, look at options side by side and compare with the competition. The tool was useful, saving us time and money, and allowing us to curate content in a much more effective way. A light bulb went off. How cool would it be to make this kind of tool available to customers. They could search multiple image providers simultaneously saving a ton of time, and compare results. But then, life went on.
Fast forward to 2016, I had started a small market strategy and consulting business. That company, VisualSteam, conducts an annual survey of creative pros on stock image licensing. In 5 years of surveys, the most common complaint was about how difficult and time consuming it was to search for and find images. Clients told us the average search for an image takes 4.25 hours. They generally searched at least 3 agencies. A little over a decade after my original idea, it was time, actually long overdue for a tool like iSPY.
I incorporated iSPY in 2016. In 2017, we launched our prototype. This was followed by our beta site, and then in 2018 we launched our SaaS platform solution for visual content called iSPY Visuals.
The pandemic accelerates online education.
Two years later, the pandemic hit. Our team, like many others, struggled with the new Zoom schooling. The quality of online education varied and parents began looking for alternative options to keep their kids engaged. Our teammate, Karen, asked why there wasn’t a tool like iSPY Visuals for education. (To read Karen’s story, click here) We loved the idea. We started to explore what existed in the edtech space, and if there was a need for a search tool for online education programs. We were surprised that there are no real education aggregators, let alone with the tools that we are building. So the idea of iSPY Education was conceived.
We are passionate about wanting to make the world of education accessible to all. The pandemic has not created online education. However, it has certainly accelerated it. There should be a tool that allows students, parents and teacher to search for and find great resources for education programming.
If you build it.
We are building just such a tool with iSPY Education. Search for online education programs like 6th grade math or language classes for your middle schooler. What ever the need, you will be able to come to iSPY, search, compare and share what you find. You will be able to use the tools to manage your options, get feedback, even share with a counselor or advisor. We hope and expect that teachers may also see iSPY Education as a resource to find online programs — to help supplement their in school education or to help a student find online education. We see schools that have cut funding being able to point to or offer online education in areas like music and art, for example. Last but not least, we also plan on partnering with companies or foundations to help underserved communities (but more on that in another post).
We are building a prototype now and yes, we are looking for funding. Our hope is to find funding in early 2022 to build and launch our site. We are excited begin the journey to disrupt education and to help make education accessible to all.
So, that’s my story. I appreciate the tremendous support we have received from our early investors who supported iSPY Visuals. We love our small but mighty team. And we are eager to begin talks with the many people interested in what we are doing and willing to give us a try. It has been a fun ride so far and we are just getting started.
Leslie Hughes is the CEO and Founder of iSPY Technologies, Inc. which first launched iSPY Visuals, an intelligent search tool and workspace for visual content users, and iSPY Education. Hughes has over 20 years experience blending content, creativity and technology. She was President of Bill Gates’ Corbis Images, and President of the Markets and Products Group for Corbis Corp. She became an entrepreneur 10 years ago. Hughes has consulted or been part of 6 start-ups and 12 acquisitions. She has an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, is the proud mother of two and lives and works in New York.