A company that helps teachers and their pupils work together using the cloud has completed the largest ever early-stage fundraising of its kind.
Firefly Learning, which was founded by two British entrepreneurs, has raised £4.5m from two venture capital funds in the biggest such deal in the education technology sector.
BGF Ventures has invested £3m in the company, while Beringea has contributed £1.5m.
Firefly, part of Microsoft’s Accelerator programme in London, allows teachers, students and parents to easily send and receive work and information using laptops, phones and tablets. The system can help schools staff set homework, create resources and track progress via the internet, using Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.
It is now used by 480 schools in 32 countries, including more than 400 in the UK. Firefly’s customers pay between £7 and £12 per student for the system, which reaches around 400,000 pupils.
“There are three-quarters-of-a-billion school-age children around the world, but education is one of those industries that hasn’t really changed at all in the way that lessons are taught and homework is handed out,” said Simon Hay, co-founder of Firefly. “Teachers, parents and pupils are heavily reliant on pieces of paper and it can be hard for parents to monitor what a student is doing.
“Firefly has developed a way to connect students, teachers and pupils so that they can collaborate even when they are not face-to-face, so that resources can be made available easily and curated properly and so that teachers can set and mark tasks quickly and easily, while allowing parents greater participation, which has been shown to improve results overall.”
Firefly will use the cash from its recent fundraising to develop their product and expand the sales and marketing team. The company currently employs 50 people in Hammersmith, London, and Sydney, Australia, and the next stage of growth will see it double in size.
Simon Calver, founding partner at BGF Ventures, said: “There are lots of apps and platforms for schools out there but Firefly has created a complete platform that integrates reminders, messaging, homework setting activities and learning resources. It is easy for teachers, pupils and parents to use the platform and can transform the way schools are run, so that everyone is using their time fruitfully to improve education results for pupils.
“Firefly is already an international business operating in over 30 countries and we think this product has the potential to be the foremost platform in the global Edtech space.”
Hay and fellow co-founder Joe Mathewson came up with the idea for Firefly when they were teenagers, staring at a pile of revision notes on a bedroom floor.
By the time the pair began their A-levels, students and teachers had uploaded more than 10,000 pages of content.
In 2010, after leaving school and working in the City, Hay and Mathewson left their jobs and started worked on Firefly full-time.
Firefly is one of eight companies currently taking part in the UK arm of Microsoft’s Accelerator – a global initiative that helps entrepreneurs build great companies.