Neil Cottrell - LexAble.com
First Class Honours Psychology graduate Neil Cottrell was diagnosed with severe dyslexia in Primary School. He was aided throughout his education, but it wasn’t until his GCSEs that Neil realised the software made available to him wasn’t enough. “I found it hard to get things down on paper”, Neil explains. “I constantly found myself half focusing on what I wanted to write and half on the spelling. I’d then inevitably lose track of what I wanted to get down and nothing made sense.” In 2005, aged15, the idea to develop a basic tool to help this particular problem came about. “I didn’t have business in mind, I just wanted to help myself”, Neil admits.
Utilising his basic knowledge, Neil was able to develop the software, and after being accepted into Cardiff University, he started to realise the business potential. “It was only at Uni that I realised what I had done for myself could be really beneficial to others”, Neil explains. “I began turning it into a fully commercial product and, alongside my degree, I developed the software further.”
The business, LexAble, officially founded by Neil Cottrell in 2007, is now a successful company that develops and produces assistive software to benefit people with dyslexia.
Luckily for Neil, funding was not an issue. “I’m quite lucky as the development costs were nothing but time, therefore initially I didn’t need any funding”, he explains. “Being at University is a great time to do it. Although it is hard work studying, if you manage your degree well, you do have time to develop the business and product. A 9-5 job would not give you that flexibility”.
Although funds were not a problem, one thing that Neil did need was advice, and he was able to take part in a number of workshops run by Student Enterprise. “I did a week long workshop (Business Start-Up Week) in my first year”, he explains. “This was so helpful. I had no experience at all, with no idea how to go about marketing, PR or accounting. The seminars gave me an insight to all of this. Advice is vital but you need to ask people who aren’t close to you”, he adds. “Your family will always say what a great job you’re doing but you need to know the truth. Find someone who knows about business and who isn’t afraid to give you honest advice. If your core idea will fail, you need to be told in order for you to tweak it slightly and be successful”.
As well as the advice and seminars offered by Student Enterprise, Neil has also benefitted from winning £500 through the SPARK competition. “It wasn’t just the money that helped”, Neil admits. “It was like a Dragon’s Den style pitch and you really have to condense and consolidate the idea of your business. It forces you to evaluate your idea quite critically and look at the business as a whole”.
Neil and LexAble are excelling and in 2010, Neil was awarded Young Achiever of the Year 2010 at the British Dyslexia Association. “It was great to have my achievements recognised”, Neil says. “Even with my severe difficulties I have still managed to get to University, graduate with a first and then go on to set up this company that helps others like me with dyslexia.”
Find out more about LexAble at: www.LexAble.com