Just Started – Corin Mynett, Emily Devonald, Natalie Campion: KEVRI

From the telegraph to the internet, UK universities have helped to shape the world. KEVRI is a digital startup that’s working to celebrate and support university research, and attract greater investment.

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Name of founders: Corin Mynett, Emily Devonald and Natalie Campion
Ages of the founders: 24, 28, 40
Location: Cornwall and London
Date launched: June 2021
Number of employees: 3

 What does your business do?

KEVRI is a digital startup which uses cloud-based software to help universities access public funding by effectively capturing and evidencing their community and business engagement.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Previous to KEVRI, Emily worked as an education journalist and content marketer for 60+ universities. Natalie worked as a lecturer at the University of Northampton, and Corin worked as a UI/Graphic designer on various projects.

When we all met on the Falmouth Launchpad Programme at Falmouth University, we combined our experience and expertise to create KEVRI.

KEVRI, meaning ‘contribute' in the Cornish language, comprises three co-founders who all view universities as melting pots of talent and innovation.

However, after months of market research, we soon realised that many incredible community and business projects designed and delegated by academics could go to waste.

This means:
1) Less university-community/business collaborations happening within our society (especially post-Covid)
2) Less funding for universities every year to support these incredible engagements (universities can get up to £4m annually if they evidence their Knowledge Exchange project data.)
3) Innovation goes to waste (the Astra-Zeneca vaccine was a Knowledge Exchange project – imagine that never getting funded!)

How did you know there was a market for it?

We spent 4-5 months during the pandemic meeting up online with academics, university staff, Knowledge Exchange government leads, EdTech companies, Higher Education industry players and Knowledge Exchange practitioners, to find out the problems in project data collation within a university. We soon found a gap in the market for a centralised system that showcases and evidences academics/university staff's research and knowledge-based projects.

What were you doing before launching your business?

Emily was an international education journalist who wrote marketing content for 60+ global universities at Study International. Natalie won the ‘Changemaker Lecturer of the Year Award' while lecturing at the University of Northampton. Corin graduated from Falmouth University on her Graphic Design course and has helped a few businesses with their UI design. All together, we graduated with a Distinction from our MSc in Entrepreneurship course from Falmouth University in September 2021.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

I (Emily) have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I used to help my mum with her craft fair stalls when she started her business and always admired the independence that came with it. I often tried to start small-scale solo projects but soon realised that a team is essential to keep you on track. So now that I'm part of KEVRI, I enjoy working towards a common goal and working in a team whose skill sets complement each other.

How did you finance your business?

We have had £20,000 of ERDF funding thus far to support our software development costs. We are now open to funding opportunities.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

At the moment, it will be a subscription-based model that we sell to universities both in the UK and beyond.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

There have been many challenges we've faced! That's the beauty of start-ups. The first was finding a name for the business, which took a lot of creativity and brainstorming. We went with a Cornish word (KEVRI) as we all met in Cornwall, and we each love the idea of contributing to something bigger than ourselves. The second was not getting too wrapped up in all the great projects happening at universities. We all love to hear about the fantastic things academics and university staff are up to, from sustainable initiatives to ground-breaking spin-offs- there are so many things to capture data for! The third is staying agile. It's easy to get stuck on an idea, or your preferred way of doing things, but for the sake of the business you must remain agile.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

Funnily enough, the pandemic actually brought our team closer together. We utilised this opportunity to catch market research interviewees online and to strategise our company goals together. Every day we would meet in for a morning SCRUM to keep ourselves energised and focused on completing tasks and gaining traction.

Describe your first breakthrough.

When the first university believed in our vision and wanted KEVRI on board. Since then, we have had a number of interested universities and would like to keep those breakthroughs rolling in.

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

If anything, our business brings communities and businesses back together. In light of the post-Brexit economy and the post-covid climate, KEVRI supports cross-cultural university collaborations and innovations.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

Everyone can have an idea, but you need to action that idea. Test it. Talk about it. Be ready to change it. The more agile you are, the higher chance of success.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

To have time to self-reflect. Being in a start-up can pull you in so many different directions. As one colleague remarked, ”It's like being an imaginary firefighter. You need to be at the ready to put out any fires you make from mistakes and to face the unknown.”

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

In three years, we will have developed an engaging and easy-to-use software platform that pleases both university staff, academics and institutions as a whole. We will have branched out of the UK and into other global markets. (Wish us luck!)

If you're a business owner with a startup that's less than six months old, apply now to feature as one of our Just Started business profiles.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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