Leeds-based Synap currently has seven staff including founders James Gupta and Omair Vaiyani. However, the duo see this growing “comfortably” to 30 to 50 people over the next couple of years.
Mr Gupta and Mr Vaiyani set the business up while they were still studying medicine at Leeds University in 2015.
They initially created the flashcard learning platform to help other medical students such as themselves pass exams.
“Synap grew out of being a student first tool,” Mr Gupta told The Yorkshire Post. “If students didn’t like it they just wouldn’t use it. That’s in-built in Synap’s DNA.”
He added: “We want to focus on the actual learner experience rather than institutional stuff and the reporting that they get out of it.”
The business recently moved to Castleton Mill having worked out of serviced office space Platform.
Synap hopes to create a team of 10-12 developers and Mr Vaiyani says that the new space can help the business recruit for those in-demand roles.
Both friends built the first couple of versions of Synap together. However, as the business has grown they have now had to split their roles.
Mr Vaiyani, who is already working with two junior developers, will lead and provide training for the development team.
“You can’t get everything done yourself so you have to impart that knowledge onto the new developers,” he said.
Mr Gupta will oversee the sales and marketing functions and look after larger clients with complex needs.
“I’ve got a decent amount of experience in setting those up now so I’ll manage some of the larger accounts that we’ve got,” he said.
Last year, the business raised £500,000 from investors.
That and customer revenues are driving growth at Synap, says Mr Gupta.
The tech firm recently started working with the University of Law and will see it provide resources to 15,000 students.
Synap also counts the Medical Defence Union as a client and taxi driver training provider Free Now, which was previously known as myTaxi.
Mr Gupta says it wasn’t an easy decision to opt for a career in tech over medicine. He added: “There are significant advantages as well as disadvantages in going down a career in medicine.
“Fundamentally, it came down to the fact that we were having a lot of fun doing this. Omair is my best friend and has been for ten years.
“It was really exciting to see where Synap might be going by the time we graduated.”
While the duo had spent several years at medical school, they had invested just as much in Synap, says Mr Vaiyani.
He said: “We often get the question of how can you spend six years doing a degree and then not carry on with it.
“What they tend to forget is the six years we spent building this business up.
“We would have lost something either way. It was a case of which one do we prefer. We definitely found ourselves enjoying this more.”
As he focuses on growing the business, Mr Gupta has been effectively “banned” from coding as it is difficult to keep on top of its demands part-time.
Mr Gupta says he isn’t sure where the greatest growth is going to come for the business. However, he expects Synap to be working several SMEs as they tackle regulation and seek to stay ahead of competition.
“There’s lots of opportunities there,” he said. “We love working with small businesses because we can get them set up very quickly.”
Businesses are increasingly taking a hands-on approach to training their staff and Synap is hoping to capitalise on that trend.
“I want us to become the go-to platform, a household name for online training,” Mr Gupta says.
Developing the next developers
Tech businesses have often cited a lack of tech talent available to them as a barrier to growth. Software developers in particular are in high demand.
Synap is tackling this skills gap by working with coding bootcamp provider Northcoders.
Northcoders opened its Leeds campus in 2019. Leeds-based Synap has hired all three of its developers from the bootcamp.
“They train people for three months in a modern technology stack,” James Gupta says. “It gives them that base level of knowledge.”
This then enables both Mr Gupta and Omar Vaiyani to work with the developers to build up their skill set.