Cork start up aims to become leader in voice-first e-learning

Cork start up aims to become leader in voice-first e-learning

Alex Thomas, a graduate of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and founder of TechWalk.io. Picture: Tomas Tyner, UCC

A CORK based start-up is aiming to become a leader in the field of voice-first e-learning, becoming the Audible.com of learning online.

TechWalk.io provides expertly curated audio tracks to support people who are seeking to up-skill in areas such as software engineering and cloud computing without using a screen.

The audio tracks allow people to prepare for their exams while walking, commuting, driving or even cooking.

Alex Thomas, a graduate of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and founder of TechWalk.io, hopes to see his start-up become a leader in the field of voice-led e-learning, which is learning utilising electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.

TechWalk.io is available on a mobile app, website and Amazon Alexa.

“It is a voice first e-learning platform to help people up-skill in areas such as software engineering and cloud computing without using a screen,” explained Alex.

Alex explained that the idea for TechWalk.io came to him during his own studies at CIT, where he graduated with an MSc in Software Development back in 2018.

“The initial inspiration was a combination of me looking for technical information I could listen to when preparing for my AWS (Amazon Web Services) certification exams, which I could not find, and my master’s thesis where I studied the impact of voice interfaces on user experience - for example with Alexa, Siri and Google Home,” he said.

“So combining these created TechWalk, which is technical information you can consume on the move and access using your voice assistants.” As a software engineer, Alex explained he was able to dive right in and begin coding TechWalk as soon as he had the idea.

“I am a software engineer and specialise in the AWS Cloud, so for me I just jumped straight into it and started coding a prototype web app and Alexa Skill to try it out for myself, and see how it feels,” he said.

“I also got some voice actors to narrate some content I prepared and also recorded myself to get user feedback.” Alex then explored how to transform TechWalk from an idea to a start-up and a viable business.

He turned to IGNITE at University College Cork for support.

IGNITE is a start-up incubation programme that supports recent graduate entrepreneurs to develop scalable businesses.

The programme provides workshops, seminars and guest speakers and one to one supports such as mentors, coaches and consultants to help participants develop the knowledge, skills and attitude to successfully start a business.

The programme is based at UCC and is open to graduates from any third level institution.

The programme is funded by Bank of Ireland, Cork City Council, Cork County Council and the Local Enterprise Offices of Cork City and County.

“IGNITE has been great in terms of setting realistic goals for an early stage startup and providing a lot of information to us relating to setting up business, marketing and funding,” Alex explained.

While IGNITE has been a help, Alex explained the Covid-19 pandemic has been a hindrance.

“The difficulty for me is working from home and staying productive,” he said.

“I have spent time working remotely for companies in the past but I try to work outside of the house, such as at Starbucks or co-working spaces.

“However, they are all closed, so I am at home but it's so easy to get distracted here,” he admitted.

“I am lucky in that my business is all online so Covid affects me less than other people starting business in these times.” At the moment, Alex is the sole worker behind TechWork.io but says he has big plans for the future, after the business went live this month.

“Currently, it is just me working on the business, I outsource contractors and freelancers if I need specific things,” he explained.

“The business goes live in mid November.

“It will all operate online with my main target market being in the US,” he added.

“Right now our content will be specifically geared around cloud training, but in the future we will open that up to other areas which seem suitable to audio based learning.

“I would like TechWalk to be positioned as the leader in voice first e-learning.

“The simplest way to think of it is like the audible.com of the e-learning industry,” he explained.

“Many people use listening devices already to listen to music or podcasts when on the move.

“TechWalk will be the one stop shop to use that time to learn specific skills, with content and user experiences geared towards learning without a screen.”

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