Insights

Paving the way out of lockdown: Education & Training sector updates

How have impact investments in edtech fared through the last few months of COVID-19, lockdowns, school closures and re-openings? Chris Parsons catches up with some of the high-impact businesses in the sector to find out.

By Chris Parsons, Head of Enterprises · April 27, 2021

With Spring now arriving and lockdown restrictions easing, there is a real sense of optimism and positivity in impact investing. The UK was the third largest country globally for investment in impact tech (160% increase since 2018) in 2020(1). COVID-19 and lockdown also triggered an accelerated systemic shift in education and training technologies globally, with nearly $20 billion VC and PE capital in 2020 invested in EdTech(2).

At ClearlySo, we are privileged to know and work with numerous companies delivering commercially attractive and scalable solutions to the market that tangibly improve outcomes and wellbeing for students, parents, education providers, employees and employers. To illustrate this, we caught up with some of the founders behind these high-impact business past, present and future clients, active across the education and training market, to gather updates from their businesses in their own words.

Azoomee / Da Vinci offers positive screen time for children by carefully selecting an exciting array of content and enabling them to safely explore anything and everything.

We have curated the world’s largest collection of premium EdTech games, inspiring TV shows and award-winning edutainment content handpicked by education experts to inspire inquisitive minds. Azoomee / Da Vinci operates across the world in over 150 countries, has a global audience of over 50 million subscribers and partners with international blue-chip organisations such as Vodafone, Telefonica O2, Comcast and Sprint. Our educational games and TV shows are available on mobile, tablet, connected TV and set-top boxes. Azoomee / Da Vinci’s premium videos are also available through Pay-TV channels and localised in 21 languages across Asia, Africa and CEE. Covid and lockdown has visibly heightened the need for positive screen time for children.

Consequently, Azoomee / Da Vinci is growing fast and expanding its successful B2B2C subscription business model with existing and new customers.”

Blackbullion is an award winning B2B Tech-For-Good company on a mission to empower millions of students to create a better financial future.

Our award winning digital financial wellbeing platform supports students to successfully transition to, through, and out of higher and further education by bringing effective and life enhancing financial education to almost a million students across the globe. We recently released the Funds Management System; a first to market, cloud first, end to end turnkey solution streamlining the funding application process from discovery through application to disbursement of payments.

Blackbullion recently launched a report, Money and mental health: how financial wellbeing impacts students which found that 48% of students have considered dropping out of university due to the financial fall-out of COVID-19 and 75% of students surveyed  were worried about finances with 67% believing that finances negatively impact mental health.

We help students develop financial skills for life which enables institutions to recruit and retain students – their primary source of income – far more effectively and to support disadvantaged, diverse and widening participation students to thrive.”

BibliU is a learning content management platform that empowers universities to automate their workflows and improve student outcomes through increased affordability and accessibility.

Using the only platform of its kind, we provide our workflow solution to 140 universities globally (including Oxford, Cornell and the University of Phoenix) helping them manage their eTextbooks and courseware, while providing an enhanced user interface for their students.

At present we have $10m in annual recurring revenue (ARR) and have grown by over 230% year on year for the last three years.”

Read about how ClearlySo helped BibliU on its journey here.

EdPlace is a leading UK provider of trusted home education support for children from Year 1 to GCSE. Its scalable platform provides families with personalised and affordable support across Maths, English and the Sciences to help them fully understand these subjects and prepare optimally for exams, including 11+ and GCSEs.

We empower children’s learning and builds their confidence by helping them cement their learning with instantly marked questions and focused teacher feedback, progressing each student based on their individual ability, making focused recommendations for practice, setting goals and providing personalised rewards for achievements and giving tailored feedback. Students using EdPlace achieve a 150%+ improvement in their progress over an academic year, and EdPlace is rated Excellent on TrustPilot.

The last year visibly accelerated the deep social need for affordable support for children struggling with curriculum subjects, the importance of effective online studying and families’ and schools’ willingness to use trusted digital solutions like EdPlace. We have a paying client base of over 30,000 students in the UK, split across a successful B2C parent subscription business and across tuition partners, including support for the Government’s National Tutoring Programme.”

Eedi provides tailored help with school and homework for maths, delivered by real tutors, for less than £2 per week. We have retained qualified tutors where they add value and blended them with propriety technology and content seamlessly to automate the areas of tuition where time and money are wasted.

These efficiencies mean we can deliver on our mission to help every child build the skills and confidence they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world, at an affordable price.

Revenues are still very early but we are presently tracking 4% plus trial-to-paid conversion – most internet businesses are between 1-2%, so this is very positive!  We are now engaged in rapid experimentation to drive user adoption.”

Ethical Angel (EA) has the opportunity to monopolise the burgeoning global market of employee engagement and development through real-world experiences that benefit people, planet and profit. Its approach is unique, scalable and personable meaning it hasn’t just secured contracts with Moët Hennessy, Barclays, YBS, M&S, BP and many others, but with a Net Retention Rate of over 120% (March 2021), it grows with them.

As a marketplace, EA is obsessed with mapping its users, balancing the supply (employees) and demand (causes) of the application. It is driven by data to promote to either user base as necessary. The company’s vision is that every cause, irrespective of location, language and size (startups, charities and social enterprises associated with the United Nations SDGs) find value either through masterclasses (expert video tutorials) or projects.

Since the last update, the company is above its budget on revenue and below on spending. Having done a lot, with very little, EA are now beginning to chart their options for future international expansion.”

Read about how ClearlySo helped Ethical Angel on its journey here.

Fiction Express is an award-winning literacy resource for schools designed to improve all areas of literacy – reading; writing; spelling, punctuation & grammar; and speaking & listening – by getting children excited about reading through the power of a deeply engaging experience of co-creation between students and authors.

During the last 12 months, Fiction Express has accelerated its growth, doubling annual recurring income to almost £1 million for 2020/21, compared to the previous school year. Today, Fiction Express is used in over 500 schools in more than 20 countries and foresees triple sales in 2021/22.

Fiction Express is publishing stories in English for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK and other English-native markets and globally for the ELT market, covering the levels A1 to C1 (CEFR). Besides, in 2019 Fiction Express launched its unique reading methodology in Spanish and Catalan languages for Spain and Latin America.

We are proud to work with renowned authors highly regarded within the Education community, including Narinder Dhami, Alan Durant, Stewart Ross, Saviour Pirotta, Damian Harvey, David Macphail, Alex Woolf, Alice Kuipers, Kathryn James, Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler.

Fiction Express has been awarded the Bett Award 2020, the Education Resources Awards 2019 and the Education Investor Awards 2019 and 2020.”

GLUU aims to identify innovative and proven EdTech which can transform schools to be better and more efficient in order to improve pupil outcomes. We can help incubate, launch and scale early stage ventures into sustainable organisations via a ‘shared goal partnership’ which ensures best practice is surfaced to all and the innovators rewarded for their endeavour. Our partners include Microsoft, Britannica Digital Learning, Kooth, Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust and SMART Technologies.

In partnership with Nesta, we launched eduu.school in 2020 to provide schools with immediate support in response to Covid. Since then eduu.school has grown to provide a longer-term solution by offering a blended home and classroom experience, allowing schools to support the ‘whole child’ by placing equal weight on wellbeing and attainment. GLUU since has partnered with Hodder Education Group, a global provider of education resources and training support, to help schools deploy and use EdTech solutions more effectively and leverage the learnings from eduu.school to improve student learning outcomes and their mental health.”

Pobble is an award winning platform that provides teachers with everything they need to teach, improve and assess writing. Founded by teachers, the company has now worked with hundreds of thousands of teachers around the world to understand the writing process and develop its proprietary content and tools for teachers to enable pupils to produce their best writing. Using Pobble sparks children’s imagination and shows them what good writing looks like, builds their writing toolkit, helps them improve their writing through self and peer assessment and boosts their overall confidence and motivation.

Research from UCL’s Educate programme showed that Pobble increases pupils’ speed, confidence and enjoyment in writing (leading to improved overall attainment) and reduces teacher lesson planning time by nearly 40%. Our SaaS business model has secured heightened traction with teachers during lockdowns. We continue to see strong demand for our platform as children return to school, with many now facing significant gaps in their learning and development, particularly in writing.”

Purlos is a SaaS company focusing on education. We work with Further Education Colleges & Universities to help them grow their revenue and enrolment numbers by converting and retaining more students during the admissions process. Founded in 2019, Purlos is a fast growing (our last raise has supported a growth rate of nearly 250%) and innovative EdTech startup that is driven by strong values which are centred around helping disadvantaged students to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and fulfil their potential. We work with over 100,000 prospective students with an aim of helping a total of 10 million learners by 2025.

Our “human-supported digital assistant” connects to prospective students through modern apps like WhatsApp which offers a much more effective communication channel than email or phone. Furthermore, we provide a full suite of analytical tools that use A.I. to analyse conversations and highlight the most at-risk applicants to help reduce drop-rates.

Our initial focus has been on the further and vocational market, where we have secured key “lighthouse” clients like South Cith & Birmingham College and HCUC in the UK, and Queensland TAFE in Australia.”

School Space is an ‘airbnb for schools’, building thriving schools at the centre of thriving communities. We partner with schools to rent out their facilities to the community, making them much needed income and helping local groups access idle space. During the pandemic we have been been largely closed for business, but have used the time to complete an angel fundraise (including many from the Clearly So network). This has allowed us to advance our tech build and onboard new schools, allowing us to double our projected earnings for our next financial year. It has certainly been a rollercoaster year, but we are excited to come out of it in great shape to continue making impact.”

Read about how ClearlySo helped School Space on its journey here.

Soccialy is a successful and proven B2B digital recruitment platform for education providers. Nearly 4 in 5 UK schools face challenges with teacher recruitment and retention, a situation heightened by Covid and lock-down. Soccialy provides independent schools with a proprietary solution using social media that takes the roles to the teacher universe far more successfully than job boards or recruitment firms. These approaches have a limited target audience and use a reactive and manual approach that provides schools with limited real-time performance data.

Soccialy actively presents education vacancies to teachers across the internet through its proprietary AI targeting technology utilising deep teacher profiles collated and updated on their platform. By offering targeted roles to teachers on social media, Soccialy opens up the nearly 90% of candidates currently not actively seeking roles currently. The business has an exceptional success rate in filling advertised roles supported by numerous testimonials from schools demonstrating that the business delivers value for money by finding profiled candidates at a dramatically reduced cost versus job boards or recruitment agencies. The team has signed up over 1,000 schools as clients, is achieving over 80% renewal rates and has amassed over 22,000 teachers’ profiles on the platform.”

Sumdog provides a personalised math & spelling practice tool that students love. We engage students with adaptive learning and multiplayer games aligned to all major curricula in the UK & US for ages 5 to 14. Our research shows Sumdog is proven to accelerate progress. Since raising funds in 2017, Sumdog is growing strongly in both Scotland and England. 90% of primary schools in Scotland now use Sumdog regularly along with a growing proportion of MATs and schools in England. We are also investing heavily in expanding our US market share. Our new spelling product is proving particular successful. It uses actors to voice words, rather than lower quality synthetic voices used by our competitors. Overall, the investment achieved with the help of ClearlySo has significantly boosted Sumdog.”

Third Space Learning has developed an innovative online tuition model that recruits STEM graduates from across emerging markets, training them as online tutors, to make one-to-one tuition accessible to children in need. The company was founded in 2013 and has grown to become the largest providers of tuition to schools in England. We are playing an important role in the covid catch up scheme as a part of the National Tutoring Programme and we recently launched a partnership in the US as we start to expand internationally. Third Space is profitable, and has seen revenue grow to over £8m this year. We have raised over £12m in investment, including from Clearly So Angels, Nesta and Ananda from the Social Investment sector.”

 Tiney are on a mission to give more children the start in life they deserve by making sure there’s high quality early years care around every corner. Founded by the brains behind Teach First and some of the brightest minds in tech, we are an early years education company supporting a new generation of childminders to create thriving home-based boutique micro-nurseries. Powered by a cutting edge app, we are giving the long-neglected early years sector the reinvention it desperately needs via world class training and a vibrant and supportive community.”

  1. TechNation Report 2021
  2. The European EdTech Funding Report 2021

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