Why EdTech is Attracting Top Executive Talent

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What do the former CEO of Virgin Group, an ex-Hedge Fund Analyst, and a former BT Manager all have in Common?

Stephen Murphy (former Virgin Group CEO), James Egan (former Hedge Fund Analyst at Citco) and Adrian Murphy (former BT Senior Manager) all work for Shaw Academy, a pioneering Ed Tech company which is making education accessible to everyone, regardless of their location, status, or wealth.

Shaw Academy has grown rapidly since its formation in 2012 and, to date, more than four million students have been educated through Shaw Academy.

The company is now aiming to expand even further, using funds from the Shadow Foundr private investor platform to do so.

James Egan, Founder of Shaw Academy, describes how he got started in the burgeoning EdTech industry.

“Before Shaw Academy, I studied Law at UCD. I then got an opportunity in the hedge fund community, where I worked for a while and had a great time. I later got involved in brokering for about three to four years. I helped contribute to a huge amount of growth and really gained an insight into customer acquisitions, conversion and retention. I also started to see growth in the provision of the education sector”.

“While working in capital markets and the brokerage community, I noticed that there was a serious problem when it came to education online. I felt it was far too expensive and far too inaccessible. I partnered up with Adrian Murphy, my co-founder, and we decided to go out on our own – we’d been exploring education for quite some time. We wanted to digitise the classroom and bring the best part of the offline learning experience online”.

The Shaw Academy team is made up of lots of interesting and prolific individuals. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the last year and a half bolstering the Shaw team and making it stronger. There’s myself and my partner and co-founder, Adrian Murphy, who have been with Shaw since the start. Over the last year we’ve brought in a new chairman called Stephen Murphy, a fantastic individual, who is the former CEO of Virgin Group globally. Outside of that, we’ve got an amazing CFO, David Norton, who formerly worked for Fleetmatics and Verizon. Our CPO, Gavin McGrath, has worked for booking.com and Amazon, our CTO, Ajit previously worked for Yahoo and has led and pioneered our platforms… it’s a great team”.

“Even with such a strong team, we have faced some issues. Technology was the major barrier for us. When we set up, the level of technology required to deliver classroom-led education didn’t really exist. You have market leaders which allow you to create a classroom, albeit where students cannot interact with each other, and your ability to answer and support those students is greatly restricted as well. You’ve got a real interaction problem. The other problem is scale. The technology didn’t exist then to teach any more than 800 students at a time, and now the market leaders give technology to teach about 1500 students. That’s no good for us, because we teach upwards of 250,000 students per month! We needed to have technology that can handle that kind of scale. About three years ago I moved over with my family to India and we set up our engineering and marketing function there. We created the technology that puts us in a position to be able to teach unlimited students. That was a problem some years ago, but we now like to look at problems as opportunities at Shaw Academy”.

“From a funding perspective, we’ve focused on propelling the company using internal resources. We could have grown a bit faster had we taken on funding earlier, but the challenge initially was to focus on the sustainability of the model. Getting funding is a time-consuming affair but by partnering with the right type of organisation, like Shadow Foundr, you can really do so in an efficient manner”.

“In terms of Investor Relations, we’ve got a very strong team led by David Norton; he has handled similar affairs in previous roles at publicly listed companies. We’ve got our CFO and FD who are the first port of call, and we give regular updates in a standardised fashion to let investors know what’s going on with the business and to keep them informed. We view investors as a phenomenal asset of the organisation because we like the idea of delivering strong returns, and these ladies and gentlemen are also going out and telling the world about what an amazing investment opportunity we are, and also how amazing our product is”.

“2017 was a real high point for the business. We brought on an incredibly strong leadership function, and we really matured the organisation a lot. We also had a huge number of institutional players contacting us and communicating with us, looking to invest considerable amounts. We found that quite flattering. 2017 was a very successful and enjoyable year for us. The next steps are to deliver a very strong 2018 and 2019. I really am excited about the idea of launching even more courses and the idea of down the line launching more courses in different languages. I like the idea of a B2B play as well, but it’s really about focussing on the here and now, executing a good plan, and making our investors happy”.

Shaw Academy are raising funds to accelerate this growth via the Shadow Foundr investment platform. Click here to find out more.

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