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An interview with Omair Vaiyani, Synap’s Founder & CTO

Today, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Omair, a co-founder and the CTO of Synap. Find out more about Omair and his role in this interview:

How did you get the idea to start Synap up?

So it actually started a couple of years ago. James and I were really annoyed at the way we were supposed to revise, like having to continually read notes, highlight things, etc. The material just didn’t seem to go in our heads.

We decided to do something like a challenge – make questions and challenge each other. This worked really well, so we then make 300 questions each, put them in a document and sent it to our year Facebook group. Everyone found it useful and we found that many of the questions we wrote were tested in the exam. This showed us it was a more interesting way to revise.

We looked into making more questions, but there wasn’t a good enough tool out there. We then decided to create one ourselves, as he had some experience in coding. We never expected it to become something that is used by students globally.

How did you get into the world of tech?

I started to learn coding by finding some basic books. I also found it really useful to look for videos that explained how apps were created. There are loads of great free online tools now, such as Codecademy and Codeschool. We now know that programming is now becoming more mainstream, not just a specific niche that only a few people can do. They even teach it in primary schools now.

After this initial learning, it really depends on your drive to keep learning. We were really passionate about our project, and it drove us to keep on learning.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis in the company?

There are different avenues to our business that we need to focus on as founders. Obviously there is business strategy, but also the marketing to raise awareness.

My focus is on building the platform as a whole. I look at how we take our idea and turn it into something that is a robust website, works on multiple platforms, scalable for the future and can genuinely utilise tech into something useful for our customers.

On a day-to-day scale, it could just be putting my head down and getting on with coding. It could be collaborating and making diagrams with my cofounder James. It could be going off to meetings with potential investors. Overall, it is quite a varied day-to-day schedule.

What are you hoping to achieve in the next year?

We have a lot of goals for Synap. We really want to grow Synap much as possible. Our aim to get to the stage of Series A investment – we have to follow through with our growth strategy, and we want to make Synap something that is part of the university culture. We want students to recognise that this way of revising is not some wishy-washy thing that may or may not work, but as a very useful and evidence based tool to improve their education.

What is a recent startup that you are particularly inspired by or fond of?

I am really impressed by how quickly Uber took off. It is not just because of the idea that they had, because there were so many other companies with the idea. It is the implementation that is particularly impressive. The tech is more intuitive and it boils down to what customers want – getting rid of all the excess and focusing on what they do best and keeping the product as simple as possible.

What is it like being a student and also running/starting up a company?

Being a student you have a list of stuff you do, and maybe on one assignment that you like, you go the extra mile. Generally speaking you do a decent amount, and the focus on other hobbies.

When it comes to the business, we always go the extra mile. After a few hours, we don’t stop because everything is done, but because it is good and necessary for us to take a break. We do the extra work because we want to. All we want to do is focus on the business, and so the balance is hard, but it is all about reaching a compromise that you feel you are happy in both sectors.

Which famous person are you most inspired by?

This is a hard one – you don’t usually have just one person. I would probably have Elon Musk as one of my top ones.

If you could have dinner with any 3 people, who would they be?

I would say Donald Glover and Louis Theroux. Oh and also Shia LaBeouf, as I would like to ask him some questions about his life choices.

If you can pick one superpower, what would it be and why?

I think it would have to be the ability to turn back time. It’s because, basically when you can repeat time, you can make the best decisions because you learn from the consequences. But then I guess I would always be turning back time!

What are the top artists on your playlist?

Shine down, Fall out boy, Matchbox Twenty

What do you do when no one is looking?

Working. And all the usual stuff you would expect someone to do.

What is your weirdest quirk?

I sometimes get a well-known phrase correct, but it is usually hysterically slightly wrong

If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?

I’d quite like to see what life was like when dinosaurs were around. Just to see how badass they really were.

What would you name the autobiography of your life?

LA to Grimsby

What advice do you have for students that want to start a company?

I think they should carry on with the studying, but really have a think about, if they come across an idea, think about whether it is a genuine viable idea that will fix people’s problems.

If so, there are a whole host of services that are there to help. I recommend speaking to Spark, which provides resources, grants and advice that you can have to turn your idea into a real business.

There are a lot of other small organisations that can help you find your feet – it is not you against the world all the time. And don’t be worried if you don’t have any business background, because you pick up a lot of it on the job.