Firefly, a suite of school learning tools used in 40 countries and first developed by co-founders Simon Hay and Joe Mathewson while preparing for their GCSEs, has secured £5 million funding from Downing Ventures, alongside BGF and Beringea.
Firefly has the potential to cut school administration by 50 per cent and connect teachers, students and parents to share lesson plans and assign and review homework directly, both in and out of the classroom. In partnership with other best of breed tools, such as content providers, Firefly aims to create one, simple to manage, school ecosystem.
Today Firefly supports more than a million students, teachers and parents in 40 countries and holds a market-leading position in UK Independent senior schools, where it is used by more than 50 per cent of students. But the idea for the technology was first created by Joe and Simon back in 1999 when they themselves were still at school. The technology was quickly adopted by several schools, with Joe and Simon establishing the venture as a full-time business in 2009.
Firefly is now planning to extend its global expansion while further developing its strong presence in UK Independent and State schools. Education technology is fast-growing, so Firefly plans to invest £3m in research and development to further diversify its suite of products. This will include the launch of new tools to help teachers and leadership teams save time and improve student outcomes, such as giving teachers, management and parents a real-time view on student progress. Additionally, the business will look to strengthen its team and plans to create 20 new jobs over the next year, while also building even more partnerships and integrations with other EdTech products.
The £5 million funding round, led by Downing Ventures and supported by other established funds, is Firefly’s second successful investment round and brings the total raised for the business to almost £10 million. This latest funding marks a new milestone for the business that will support Firefly at a crucial stage of its growth and in its intention to cement its future position as a leading light in UK EdTech.
Simon Hay, Firefly Learning, commented: “At Firefly, our ambition is to supercharge the school experience, so every student can reach their potential. This investment will enable us to move more quickly towards empowering teachers, students and parents, adding to the hundreds of thousands using the tool every day.
“Downing’s experience in the EdTech sector caught our interest, as well as its work with other fast-growing companies that make a difference, and we’re looking forward to working with James and the Downing team on our own expansion plans. BGF and Beringea have been fantastic partners over the past couple of years, and we’re delighted that they’re also doubling down to further support this next stage of growth.”
James Lewis, Investment Director at Downing Ventures also commented on Firefly’s unique position in the market: “The EdTech sector is an exciting but challenging place. On the one hand, it can be highly competitive, with the UK spending an estimated £1 billion on EdTech. However, at the same time, it’s also a very fragmented market. Firefly’s relentless focus on developing products that can make a tangible difference for teachers, students and parents has secured them a market-leading position among UK Independent schools.”
Simon Calver, Head of Venture Investments at BGF who sits on the board of Firefly, said:“Firefly has built an effective, easy-to-use tool that connects teachers, parents and students and ultimately enhances the education experience for young people. The team continues to drive growth on an international scale since BGF’s original investment and we’re looking forward to being part of this exciting next stage of their global journey.”
Stuart Veale, Managing Partner of Beringea and board member for Firefly, commented:“Firefly has demonstrated its ability to build a platform that transforms the educational experience of thousands of students around the world. Beringea has supported this latest round of funding to enable the business to build on this success and accelerate its growth as a global leader in education technology.”
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BGF was set up in 2011 and has invested more than £1.8bn in over 260 companies, making it the most active investor in the UK and globally by number of transactions. On average, BGF invested in one company per week in 2018.
BGF has £2.5bn to invest in UK SMEs and in Ireland, and an additional €250m to support Irish businesses. Earlier this year, Canada launched its equivalent – the Canadian Business Growth Fund – based on BGF’s funding model, and Australia is now actively exploring the approach as well.
BGF is a minority, non-controlling equity partner with a patient outlook on investments, based on shared long-term goals with the management teams it backs.
Beringea is a highly active growth capital investor with $715m under management and offices in the UK and US. It supports high-growth businesses with annual revenues of more than £1 million, investing between £1 million and £20 million to help companies scale.
With a successful track-record of investments spanning 30 years, Beringea has more than 60 portfolio companies across its US and UK offices. The company has a history of strong partnerships with management teams, often reinvesting in its successful entrepreneurs.
Its core areas for investment include digital media, business software and services, and consumer industries. With an extensive range of expertise across the team, and an ability for spotting and following opportunities, Beringea’s portfolio includes companies in a range of sectors, and its team continues to be at the forefront of emerging trends.