A Chat With Mark Mate Founder James Holmes

A Chat With Mark Mate Founder James Holmes

James Holmes was a primary school teacher with an overloaded, and growing, workload. A story I’m sure many of you are familiar with. James was so overloaded with work that he decided to see if he could make his life easier through software. Mark Mate was born. While back then, it wasn’t quite the app you currently use, it was essentially a spreadsheet with some voice dictation. Over time, of course, the app developed and changed. Some of the biggest changes came as an indirect result of James appearing on Dragons’ Den. I recently sat down with James to talk about his experience in the Den.

Before The Den

Mark Mate: Hey man, nice to see you.

James Holmes: You too, sir!

MM: So let’s start off back at the start of the Dragons’ Den process. What made you apply for the Den?

JH: Having watched the show for years I always wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to be the one in front of them and have other people shout at me! I didn’t ever think I would have got on, I applied one evening and forgot all about it. I was contacted 3 months later!

MM: What was that application and audition process like?

JH: The application process was very straightforward, you can do it via their website by downloading and filling in a form. The audition was the scary part. I had to travel to London and do a screen test which was a dry run of the pitch, I then had to answer questions on camera and also talk for a minute about myself, I guess so they can see if I can talk!

In The Den

MM: So, you eventually get the call…

JH: After months, and months of waiting!

MM: So after months, and months of waiting, you eventually get the call that you made it onto the show. Going in, did you have an idea of who you’d like to invest and what sort of deal you’d like?

JH: Going in I was hoping to get Peter Jones because he already has a lot of business in schools and colleges and does a lot with the big networking companies so that would have been ideal. The limit I was going to go to was 25% but after getting positive feedback from everyone but no offers, I decided to go with Touker.

MM: What sort of impact has Dragon’s Den, and more specifically Touker, had on the business?

JH: I have had a lot of great support from Touker but we decided to part ways and not go through with the investment. It was something that I started on my own and I really wanted to maintain control in steering the company in the direction I knew it should go! We have gained a huge amount of awareness from schools and our user base has grown almost 20 fold which is fantastic. We have been able to take on more staff and developers to help the product grow which is allowing us to re-launch our updated user interface and mobile app ready for September!

Don’t Miss It

James’ episode of Dragons’ Den will be repeated on Sunday May 26th at 9pm on BBC2. Will you be tuning in to watch? Did you see it last time round? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments!

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positive review Using Mark Mate has changed the way I give feedback to my students. It allows me to give a more in depth commentary at twice the speed of marking the old fashioned way. When asked, all children in my class said that they preferred reading feedback with Mark Mate, noting... read more

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