Charles Wiles, CEO and Co-Founder of EdTech startup Zzish wants to democratise access to the advance

Zzish raises £1m equity round on Crowdcube for technology that will democratise quality education and move the needle on learning

Zzish, the UK edtech company founded by a former Google product manager which aims to democratise access to advanced learning technologies for teachers, pupils and developers, announces its £1.5m funding round today to fund its ambitious global expansion plans.

The company has set an initial target of raising £1.15m of the round via a crowdfunding campaign launched publicly this morning on Crowdcube. It has already reached more than £1m of commitments. Once completed, the crowdfunding round will bring the total funds Zzish has raised to date since it launched three years ago to £3m.

Backed by Leaf Investments, Europe’s leading EdTech venture fund, and Neil Hutchison, angel investor and founder of the Forward Internet Group, the £1.15m raise on Crowdcube - UK’s leading equity crowdfunding platform – will be used to roll out its product further internationally, where the global opportunity is set to be worth $252bn by 2020.

The UK is the third largest market for edtech investments, with Zzish being one of a few British edtech businesses starting to prove efficacy and demand of its product overseas, particularly in developing nations with disproportionately large younger generations. These opportunities lie particularly in Asian territories, such as China, where edtech is being used to upskill vast working-class populations.

With British edtech providers regarded highly across the world and bolstered by the powerful community of Silicon Roundabout, even in the face of a looming Brexit, the ease with which these businesses and products can be scaled and distributed globally could ensure that the very best of these UK edtech businesses will flourish and thrive despite economic uncertainty.

Zzish founder Charles Wiles, who has a doctorate in robotics and artificial intelligence, was motivated to set up the leading edtech venture in 2014 when – as a single parent – he was trying to get his smart but disengaged and recently bereaved teenage son to enjoy school where he was struggling in the bottom sets.

The eureka moment occurred when, one day at work, Charles got a notification from the SongPop app he played with his daughter, alerting him that it was now his turn to answer a music quiz they were currently playing. Wiles thought, “wouldn’t it be good if this was an educational quiz rather than a pop one? And what if that same app took the performance data and diagnosed learning gaps that, through targeted play, could help a child memorise and master a subject?”

To create an app which did just that, Charles quit his job at a data company in London where he was MD and invested his own life savings into setting up a business where he personally coded the first iteration of the app.

Zzish has since won awards for becoming the definitive formative assessment app. Best known for its “Teacher Dashboards”, Zzish is a real-time agent that understands each student’s personal learning needs and can tell the teacher “who needs help”, “what they need help with” and “how you can help them”. But, crucially, Zzish is also a platform for developers to create, distribute and monetise educational applications.

Mobile learning is an emerging $38bn market and presents an exciting opportunity for new players to create valuable businesses within the education category. Yet the vast majority of developers behind the creation of some 200,000 apps on the market today have access to only a fraction of the tens of millions of funding invested in some of today’s market-leading mobile learning apps. Zzish ‘solves’ this funding problem and levels the playing field for educational app creators by providing key infrastructure and tools. Zzish enables developers to produce high quality applications while saving them 50 to 80 per cent of time and cost. In short, it is democratising access to the advanced learning technologies for app creators and ‘teacherpreneurs’ keen to mobilise technology to improve student engagement and deliver more targeted, personalised and effective learning.

Today, 80,000 teachers from 110 countries and a million students currently use it. Last year, Zzish was a finalist in the Teach Secondary’s Technology & Innovation Awards 2016 for its role in improving standards of teaching and learning at Key Stages 3 and 4 during the 2015/16 academic year. One school professed that it has improved test scores by 10% in six months. It is also a finalist in this year’s E-Assessment Awards for Best Use Of Formative Assessment. In 2015, Zzish was shortlisted as an EdTech 20 startup in recognition of its innovation and growth, selected as a Future 30 business at the Bett Show 2015, and also one of only two edtech startups accepted on the 2014 TechStars London program from a pool of 1,200 applicants.

The market potential for the edtech industry is vast and forecasted to grow 17% year-on-year to become worth $252bn by 2020 (EdTechGlobal report, May 2016). Last year, CB Insights reported that funding of edtech startups peaked at $3.3bn.

Charles Wiles, co-founder and CEO, says: “Driving engagement and love for core disciplines at an early stage is not only crucial to the mastery of such subjects but is also necessary to producing the next generation of teachers, engineers, mathematicians and scientists that will power the innovation of tomorrow. We are pioneering edtech to curtail the critical teacher decline, address the disengagement problem, democratise quality education and ‘solve’ the funding conundrum.

In a profession where marking is identified as the single biggest contributor to a teacher’s unsustainable workload, Zzish radically optimises a teacher’s time to do what teachers do best: teach. It has become a virtual personal teaching assistant of sorts. Using analytics and intelligent algorithms to make teaching more informed and effective, we’re making it possible for every child their own personal virtual tutor. Thus, the potential for such technology to democratise quality education and transcend the socio-economic barriers to progression is incredibly promising. Our first equity raise on Crowdcube offers investors, teachers and parents an opportunity to ride this wave and be a part of Zzish’s success. More especially, it will enable anyone to become part of a movement that is set to have a tangible, meaningful social impact on the future of our children and the teaching profession in general.“

Alan Maguire, partner at Leaf Investments, comments: “We’re looking for two things in our investments: one is learning outcomes and efficacy, and the other is technology that brings real efficiency to the education environment, and that’s what a lot of edtech companies miss. Zzish brings in a perfect combination of the two. It has the right motivation to have an impact on people, and brings a brilliant team with a very strong business focus and massive ambition.”

Henry Warren, former chief innovation office at Pearson and CEO of Mwabu, comments: “Fundamentally, education needs to change. We have a teacher shortage of 1.6m teachers around the world today. We have countries where the populations are growing incredibly fast, and the demand for education is growing exponentially. We need lots of companies to innovate, and what Zzish is building is the railroad to help them do that.”

Find out more about Zzish’s Crowdcube campaign visit crowdcube [dot] com [forward slash] zzish.

Please note that investing involves risk and should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. Investing equity in start-ups and early stage businesses involves risks, including illiquidity, lack of dividends, loss of investment and dilution. Crowdcube is targeted exclusively at investors who are sufficiently sophisticated to understand these risks and make their own investment decisions. Approved as a financial promotion by Crowdcube Capital Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 650205).

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