Limerick Business Leaders: Firm aims to help students ‘Jump’ through state exams

David Neville and Padraic Hogan are behind ‘JumpAGrade’, which has helped students all over the country through the Junior and Leaving Certificate

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

David Neville and Padraic Hogan, pictured at JumpAGrade’s headquarters in the Nexus Innovation Centre at UL Picture: Michael Cowhey

David Neville and Padraic Hogan, pictured at JumpAGrade’s headquarters in the Nexus Innovation Centre at UL Picture: Michael Cowhey

Tell us a little about JumpAGrade:

David Neville: JumpAGrade is an online service for second level students. In a classroom of 25 students with one teacher, it can be very difficult for students to get one-to-one feedback. So as we looked into it, we found the common solution was going to grind schools. This comes with a travel cost. So we felt there was an opportunity for us to offer something for students to work from home, and get the all-important one-to-one feedback which can often be the difference between an A grade or B grade.

When was the company set up?

DN: We launched the platform last October. But we’ve been working on it for a lot longer than that. However, this is our first Leaving Cert cycle. It’s gone really well so far. It’s a high-pressure time for us. We have seen the stress coming through from both the parents and the students. It’s so true when people say, it’s not just the student who does the Leaving Cert – the whole family does the Leaving Cert! I feel we have played a big part for the students in helping them be better prepared and reducing the stress.

How many people work for JumpAGrade?

PH: Three of us founded the company – myself, David and Ethan O’Brien. Beyond that, we have two developers working for us on a part-time basis. We also have an intern, a transition year student from Laurel Hill. We have a strong team of freelancers built around us playing a part. We work with 25 teachers across the country, providing work to them.

How does that work?

PH: Essentially, we bring the work to them, and they work online with the students. We are lucky we have worked with some really top quality teachers.

DN: It is also great as the teachers can work with the students to find a time which is convenient for them. There is not an assigned time they have to sign in. They can work it out between themselves.

What do your roles entail?

DN: As an early stage company, I would wear a lot of hats! Everyone does their own bit, there is a huge overlap. My focus early on was delivering the best possible experience to our end users.

PH: My role is in business development – everything from bringing on customers to creating new channels for promoting and selling the product. Ethan is our chief executive. He’s from a technical background. He is responsible for the development and the core operation of the business.

Where were you born and raised?

PH: I am a Tipperary man, from Birdhill. Now I live in Annacotty.

DN: I am Limerick through and through. I was born in Castleconnell. Now I also live in Annacotty.

What is your educational background?

DN: I attended Castletroy College. From there, I went to the University of Limerick to do a degree in business.

PH: I would have been educated in Limerick, in Castleconnell and then at Castletroy College then for my second level. I graduated from the University of Limerick, also in business and entrepreneurship.

How did you get to where you are today?

DN: After graduating, I made the brave decision to move to New York without a job lined up. Thankfully this worked out well, I secured a job working with Kemp technologies. So I returned with them to Limerick, where they also have a base. Following this, we set up JumpAGrade.

PH: I worked for Oracle in Dublin. It’s a multi-national firm where over three years I learned my trade in business development and sales. Then I worked for Miagen, a financial solution consultancy in Dublin, before starting jumpAgrade.

Why did you decide to set up JumpAGrade?

DN: We met at a business start-up weekend in the University of Limerick, which ironically is in the same building we now call our office. We had a shared passion around wanting to improve the educational system we had gone through ourselves. What started as something small, and something we were working at in our spare time in evenings and weekends, grew to become something more than that to the stage where we received support from the Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland, and further investment allowed us to go full time last year. It went from working on the kitchen table last year to the Workbench in Bank of Ireland to having our own office in Nexus.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

PH: Our biggest goal for the next 12 months is to become a recognised brand, and being able to take on more students across Ireland.

In business and life, who would you look up to?

PH: One person who stands out to me overall would be Chuck Feeney, the philanthropist.

DN: I love seeing people representing Limerick on a global scale. Coming from Kemp, I would look up to Ray Downes, the chief executive of this company.

Are you guided by any particular motto?

DN: One that I like is ‘don’t hate Mondays, as they are one-seventh of your life’. You hear people giving out about Mondays, but they make a good chunk of our lives.

PH: ‘Every day is a gift’

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

PH: I have a massive interest in the GAA, and play club hurling in Tipperary. That would be my big pastime outside of work.

DN: I am also a big fan of sport. Rugby would be the one I’d still play. I also coach the under-11s side on a Sunday morning in UL Bohs.