Tablets that replace schoolbooks, tests done on a computer and learning through games. The time that schools looked with suspicion on technological developments is over. So plenty of opportunity for entrepreneurs that unerringly sense what students, pupils and teachers need.

Marc Habbema and Max Cohen co-founded SOWISO, a spin-off of the TU/e department of Mathematics and Computer Science. The company develops e-learning technology for mathematical sciences. A the end of June 2013 they received the good news that the software company WoodWing wanted to invest in their company.

They are not TU/e students but hail from Amsterdam and are economists, yet Habbema and Cohen own the TU/e spin-off SOWISO. “Max and I had been good friends for years. And we toyed with the idea of starting something for ourselves for some time. Then via the grapevine we heard of the e-learning software of the department of Mathematics and Computer Science at TU/e, so we took the leap.” The duo saw plenty of possibilities.

“The e-learning software was technically well constructed but in terms of user-friendliness, for example, left a lot to be desired in our eyes. We made a commercial product out of it.”

Using the web-based software of SOWISO publishers, academic and professional universities can now develop intelligent e-learning solutions themselves that comply with the requirements of today’s digital age. Like offering students of different levels and didactic preferences a learning program that is optimized for them. The software is innovative since it is able to interpret and analyze open answers, such as calculations and mathematical expressions. Then feedback is provided on the answers in a process whereby the SOWISO software not only sees that there is an error but also what kind of error it is. Other e-learning solutions are limited to multiple-choice questions and simple right/wrong feedback.

In contrast to many start-ups SOWISO made money from the very beginning. Yet the TU/e spin-off still got bogged down. “To make real growth you need capital. Capital to develop and to expand marketing and sales.” Salvation came at the end of June 2013. Zaandam-based WoodWing, also active in the ‘digital publishing’ market, wanted to collaborate and decided to invest in SOWISO. “Now we can really move forward.” There are plenty of new ideas. “Like a foundation course for first-year students.” There is also interest from abroad. “Our dream is to help publishers and universities from all over the world with our software.”