Charley Darbishire, founder and CEO of Educake

Photo of Charley Darbishire

Charley is an Oxford based entrepreneur who is the founder and managing director of Educake, an online homework and revision application for secondary school science. After finishing his DPhil in Experimental Psychology, Charley was involved in writing and editing many of the UK’s bestselling revision guides, which led him to found Educake.

So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

First, being persistent (almost to a fault) and adaptable: as part of a small team you need to be able to turn your hand to many different things and work through any challenge. You can’t just be a developer, you need more generalist skills. Second, knowing when to take advice and when to ignore it: this is particularly hard as a sole founder. You need to trust your instincts and, critically, find advisors you trust. Third, knowing when to ask for help. You can’t do everything, even if you know how. At some point you will need help.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?

The variety!  I love running my own business, challenges and all. Every day is different, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always different. Plus you get to be continually learning new things. There is never any time to get bored and you know you’re creating something which wouldn’t be there without you.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
Educake Logo

Porsche is impressive because they create an unspoken desire for their cars which you can’t put into any advertisement. I would also say Apple because they have developed such a fantastic user interface for people who are not tech savvy. With both organisations the success of their products is aesthetic as much as functional.

If you could have 5 minutes with Porsche or Apple, what would you want to ask or discuss?

I would ask them how they get the emotional wanting or desire from their customers. Any tips or strategies would be appreciated!

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?

When we had the first school using and paying for Educake. Seeing them use it and actually enjoy it, and having those testimonials was so satisfying. I still get that same feeling when new schools start using it.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?

I think my MVP (minimum viable product) could have been a bit more minimal.  There’s a great saying: “If you’re not embarrassed by your MVP, you’ve released it too late”. However, once it is out there, and people are using it, you can iterate based on feedback. Much better to get it out there a bit early than a bit late.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?

Oxford has a great community of entrepreneurs. It is small enough to feel part of it, but not too big like London.  It is also a great place to live, with a great global brand. However the cost of living is high, and the proximity to London means many people live here but work in London. Oxford is also well known for startups in science and pharma, but less so in tech and digital, despite having a thriving community.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?

Come here!  We have a great co-working space (Oxford Innospace) where you don’t have to work alone. It is very important when you are starting out to not work from home all the time. But also, make sure you talk to as many people in the same industry as you can. Most people are more than happy to help or connect you with people that can help.

Any last words of advice?

Don’t work too hard! Overworking yourself leads to poor decision making, and a startup lives or dies by its decisions. Managing stress levels, and taking breaks where you can is also very important, as it is hard to be really effective if you are working 24/7.