Textbook win for The Oxford Trust’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2016

Tuesday 5th July 2016

Dave Sherwood recently won The Oxford Trust’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 award for his online academic book business Bibliotech. Here he talks about how growing up in a remote part of Australia inspired his career path.

I was born in Dardanup, Western Australia. During high school I had volunteered as a firefighter with FESA and as a tutor at Milligan House in Bunbury. As a delegate for the National Youth Science Forum, upon returning from Canberra, I visited a number of schools in the Bunbury region to share my experiences and encourage other students to apply for similar opportunities. Studying, volunteering and living in remote Western Australia has given me an appreciation of the contribution such landscapes and communities make to the wider Australian society and economy and instilled in me a desire to give back to those communities.

In May 2011, at age 19, some colleagues and I formed a not-for-profit incorporation called Teach Learn Grow Inc (TLG.) As CEO, I managed an executive of 30, overseeing 250 volunteer tutors providing tutoring and mentoring to over 500 primary students at eleven remote schools across the region. More than half of the students are indigenous. Throughout the program the average student improves on their individual Maths and English outcomes by over 90%, a phenomenal result. Numbers only provide half the story, the real value is being seen by principals, teachers and tutors in the students’ attitude to learning and career outlook. Five years later over £250,000 has been raised for the cause. We created two full-time jobs and 25 casual jobs.

“The idea to found Bibliotech came to life when I was on the trans-Siberian train from Beijing to Moscow with the 2013 Australian and New Zealand Rhodes Scholars on their way to Oxford University…”

I was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship in 2013. The idea to found Bibliotech came to life when I was on the trans-Siberian train from Beijing to Moscow with the 2013 Australian and New Zealand Rhodes Scholars on their way to Oxford University. After handing over operational responsibilities of TLG to a new team, I was keen to build a business in the UK around my passion for making education accessible. During the three weeks of the train journey it became clear to me that smartphones had revolutionised consumption of information and media through new key products. For example music and video were now on-demand, email inboxes became to-do lists with functions like ‘swipe to archive, ‘delete’ or ‘remind me later.’ The consumption of books however had remained largely unchanged since the rise of the printing press developed in Korea in 1377. Textbooks had been a bane of my life throughout my studies and, upon further examination, appeared to be ripe for disruption: and so Bibliotech – the Spotify for textbooks – built for the needs of students rather than the bottom line of the publishers, was born.

We have gone on to secure £250,000 in investment and licensing deals with Oxford University Press, Taylor & Francis and the Royal Society of Chemistry. We will be expanding around the country as soon as possible.

I’m delighted to have won the Barclays Young Entrepreneur of the Year award because it will assist in taking Bibliotech to the next level. Endorsement from an organisation like the Oxford Trust then makes customer acquisition, recruiting, getting press and investment much easier. It’s also a good sign that we are on the right track to make textbooks more accessible to everyone!

Picture: Andrew Davies presents the Barclays Young Entrepreneur of the Year award to Dave Sherwood.

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