On the road with Latvian exporters: Edurio

Asked to explain their success in business, many of the more modest multi-millionnaires in the world say it was to a large extent a matter of being “in the right place at the right time”. One of the other popular sayings among high-fliers is “You make your own luck”. 

On The Road Facts

Company: Edurio

Product: Education software systems

Location: 56.952661, 24.112461

Address: Raiņa bulvaris 8, Rīga

Time: 20 March, 15:00

Temperature: 0 C

Weather: Occasional snow flurries

Located exactly between these two positions is Ernests Jenavs of education data company Edurio. In Ernests' way of doing things, just happening to be in the right place at the right time is the result of considerable advance planning, expense and calculated risk.

“I once faked a trip to Paris so I would have an excuse to meet someone from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development),” says Ernests, with a grin.

“We had actually arranged a Skype call but I ended up going to Paris from London, spending 8 hours travelling back and forth for a cup of tea. But it paid off massively! Just because of that meeting they invited us to a conference with 17 ministers of education where we could casually chat with them around the table. That in turn gave us access to lots of events we wouldn't have known about otherwise. The relationship with the OECD has taken us quite far.”

Appropriately enough for a company that operates in the education sector, the place Ernests has nominated to show us is the Riga State Gymnasium No.1, renowned as the educational establishment of the nation's gilded and occasionally not-so-gilded but very talented youth.

“This is the school where a couple of the co-founders of Edurio went, so it's really where it all started. I was studying Decision Sciences – which sounds more fancy than it is – and Janis was orginally doing philosophy and politics but then got sensible and started on Evolutionary Anthropology. And this school is also where we got our first developer - Edgars, who had a habit of hacking the school network - so the original team was formed around the school,” says Ernests.

But going to school is about more than sitting diligently in lessons. There is also the important question of which cafes to go to at lunchtime – a memory prompted by the arrival at the school door of two small boys munching from enormous boxes of cheese crackers which they quickly finish and deposit (to the school's credit) in the nearest waste bin.

“There were three places we used to disperse to,” says Ernests, “McDonald's, Pelmeni and the Dutch pancake cafe. I was quite picky at the time, so I always went to McDonald's and had fries... without any salt. But with salt on the side. By the twentieth or thirtieth time they stopped asking me what I wanted.”

The basic idea for Edurio - using data sets to improve education - was quick but it took six years to realise. A first attempt in 2008 was a “massive failure” but a very useful one and when the team approached educational data for a second time in 2014 they had a clear idea of how to proceed.

“Schools are going through a lot of changes right now. For systems to change, the schools need to own the improvement.

"The ability for leaders to make decisions in their schools is key and to do that they need data that measures the right things – not just grades. The data needs to be accessible and understandable. What we've done with Edurio is build a system that collects feedback from students, parents and teachers. They select their priorities, measure those things, collect the data and use a methodology to plan improvement actions,” says Ernests.

Typically Edurio works with networks of schools, with Latvia, the United Kingdom and South Africa all important markets at the moment. Seeing the conditions under which some South African schools operate and the changes accurate data can enable has been an eye-opening experience that has given “a very good realisation of how important school leadership is regardless of geographical location.”

While the company is now growing steadily, certain things remain the same. Namely, Ernests' rather particular lunchtime eating habits. The Cydonia restaurant in the upscale Berga Bazars quarter of Riga is a considerable advance on McDonald's and even the Dutch pancake cafe, yet here too they already know what he will order. Edurio's office is next door (though the headquarters is in London) and this is his third visit of the day.

“They've stopped asking me,” says Ernests, “I used to have my '5 S Framework' of foods I didn't eat, namely: Soups, Seafood, Salad, Spices and Sauces. I used to be a bit more peculiar than I am now. I still wouldn't eat a boiled carrot. But I recently started tolerating roasted carrots.”

This series is produced in cooperation with The Red Jackets organization which unites the best exporting brands from Latvia with top-notch products, services, knowledge, and values. These are brands rooted in Latvia and the movement aims to spread the word about Latvia through its brands, exceptional people and inspiring places. Supporters of the Red Jackets movement include the European Commission representation in Latvia and ALTUM state-owned development finance institution.

 

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