Darin Madzharov: On Entrepreneurship in School and the Importance of a Problem-Solving Mindset
Ucha.se is an interesting case in the Bulgarian startup ecosystem. It’s a company that has made learning fun and interesting for students, and on top of that is profitable, which has proven a challenge for many edtech companies around the world. To date, over 16 thousand entertaining video lessons and tests for all grades have been developed in accordance with the public school system in Bulgaria and over 60% of schools in the country already have a subscription for the platform. These lessons have been watched more than 65 million times and, in 2019, Ucha.se records nearly €3.5M in revenue and over €1.5M in profit.
So, for the first day of school, we talked to Darin Madzharov, the founder of Ucha.se, who started the company back in 2012. He shared thoughts on entrepreneurship, on learning to be an entrepreneur, and what the future holds for Ucha.se.
Trending Topics: What are the biggest lessons about entrepreneurship you have learned since you founded Ucha.se eight years ago?
Darin Madzharov: There are many but if I have to distinguish one thing is the mindset that a solution can be found for any problem. From my perspective, entrepreneurs are people who really care about a problem and would try to find a solution to the best of their ability.
So, I’d say the main lesson during my time at Ucha.se has taught me is that it’s completely normal for new challenges to come at our door every day – we just have to find a way to deal with them.
What do you think are the most important skills that need to be developed at school so that the student can become a successful entrepreneur later in life?
There are three levels. First, students should have values to guide them in life – for example, to respect others. If you have good values, you will fit well in society, you would have a good job, and people will probably like you. The development of values usually takes place at home and is a task for parents.
In addition to these values, the second level that needs to be worked on in school is the ability to identify problems. I don’t mean necessarily having the solution, but being able to say – something is happening here and action needs to be taken. With this skill, you can find an even better job.
The third level, of course, is the discovery of solutions – for the people around you and for society. While in school, I would say that it is much more important to work on projects that develop a problem-solving mindset rather than expecting a student to solve all the problems in the world. After graduation, the time will come for that too.
If we look at the future of the public education system in Bulgaria, in which areas would you want to see any significant innovations or reforms? What are the biggest problems to be solved?
Without a doubt, the fact that not enough new teachers are joining and staying in the education system. There are many many other things to be improved, but they are not that significant compared to the realistic possibility of not having enough qualified teachers in just a few years. Especially, when many of the current ones will retire soon.
What’s next for Ucha.se?
In a few days, we will release a few very big projects for us.
First of all, we are launching a mobile app. Currently, more than half of the users on Ucha.se’s platform are on a mobile device, so this should make it much easier for them.
In terms of content, we are currently adding ‘revisions’ as a new feature – right after the video lessons and tests. It’s similar to mind maps, which allows you to very easily reaffirm what you have learned.
The third important point is that we are entering the Romanian market. There we will start with lessons in mathematics and gradually cover other subjects as well. We are planning to expand to other countries and also increase the number of people in Bulgaria who use the platform.
We will continue to add subjects that are not in the formal education system – we already have lessons on entrepreneurship, money and business, meditation, soft skills, career orientation, and many others.
Is there something new you want to learn during the new school year?
Professionally, my focus is on sustainable business growth. A year ago, we had 100 people on the team, now we have grown to more than 200 and we will continue to grow. This fast growth should happen in a healthy manner and we need to make sure that all new people share our culture and values.
I try to constantly work on all other skills I consider important. I don’t think there’s a subject I’ve mastered perfectly, so I keep learning.
I have been meditating for years so that my brain can be as effective as possible when making important decisions. Also, since I decided that I want to learn to play the guitar – for two years now I have been going to classes three or four times a week.