Country: United Kingdom
Status: Graduated

Helping schools manage, maintain and maximise attendance


  • Age of business: 2 years
  • Name of business: Sickly
  • Location: Brighton and Hove, UK
  • Team: 6
  • Funding: €100,000
  • Pitch: Sickly is a simple, efficient, online system that helps schools manage, maintain and maximise attendance.

What does Sickly do?

It automates sickness absence reports for schools, saving hours of repetitive tasks each day. Staff time and resources saved can then focus on personal engagement with parents where most needed – to address the root causes of attendance issues. No IT hassle, just minutes to set up. Parents conveniently report absence via our app or web. We also aim to provide public health organisations and schools with up-to-date anonymised information on the spread of illnesses in local areas.

How did your team meet?

Initially through a combination of sharing some of the highs and lows of parenting! We have grown from a pilot at a local school. We later advertised for energetic, experienced people who share a passion and excitement for technology and communications. We are a very human, dedicated and hardworking team. We enjoy the challenges of creating a fast developing system to make things easier for everyone.

Where did the business idea come from?

My daughter came down with scarlet fever. Only after being misdiagnosed by four doctors did we discover one of her school friends had scarlet fever shortly before. If that information had been available earlier the diagnosis would have been obvious. We started with the idea of building an app for collecting data on illnesses. We later turned Sickly into a service for schools and parents after a head teacher suggested it would be something all schools would benefit from.

Are you working with any other partners?

Right from the start we built our product in partnership with schools and want to preserve that spirit as we grow. We also partnered with the UK’s major provider of school admin software with whom we are now a technical associate. Our software is approved by local authorities and endorsed by schools. We are currently building relationships with public health organisations to enable them to use the anonymised illness data we collect.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Get a bigger team sooner! We have learned a massive amount over two years about what schools need around managing, maintaining and improving attendance and behaviour. So knowing the answers sooner might have been handy. That said approaching this as outsiders enabled us to take a fresh look at what schools want, giving a thorough and vital picture of how to make the system top grade in terms of function, efficiency and positive change for schools and parents alike.

What advice would you give to other companies pitching to ODINE?

Passion and a great idea are brilliant but do tell your story clearly. Make it engaging and if you are doing interesting and beneficial things with open data, the ODINE team will be quick to pick up on it. And make sure you keep your 10-minute pitch to the time limit!

What would you say to other startups thinking of working with open data?

It is easy to get carried away with the coolness of open data and forget that the same things apply as for any other startup. It is about delivering a great product that people need and will pay you for. However noble your aims around open data, making your startup successful is ultimately going to be about sales – remember that.

How would you encourage big business to buy into the open data movement?

Why not try releasing some open data and see if it generates any benefits? Data that is incidental to your main business might be the place to start. As an example, we are talking to a big business who are considering opening up their staff sickness data (completely anonymised). It costs nothing to open up some data and shows you are not just about profit but also about the wider benefits. You never know it could lead to your next big revenue-generating opportunity!

What’s the key trend in open data at the moment?

As more data is being made available openly, we are starting to see the real value and promise of open data, which is in putting together data from multiple sources to deliver insights that simply were not available in the old, closed data world. It requires people with imagination to spot the opportunities and the great thing is there are now schemes like ODINE there to support you.

This article first appeared on the Guardian.