Ben Hallett is the CEO and co-founder of fast growing EdTech company Vygo, built to ensure no student is left behind. In the latest Behind The Raise interview he talks to AIN about creating equality in education, scaling fast and pivoting, the reasons for rising investor interest in EdTech and how to avoid wasting time when fundraising.
Tell us about Vygo and how you came up with the idea
While studying at university, myself and my co-founder witnessed too many of our peers struggling, falling through the cracks and ultimately falling short of their potential. With further research we discovered that the problem was global with 30-50% of students dropping out of higher education and most students struggling with severe or debilitating stress. We discovered that one of the core challenges is helping students connect with the support they need when they need it and we couldn’t see anyone else meaningfully solving this. This set us out on a mission to ensure that every learner has equal access to the support they need, when they need it, so that they can reach their full potential.
What is the problem you are looking to solve?
Equality in education.
How did you get the business off the ground?
At first we built a minimum viable solution (MVP) which enabled students to academically support each other. We saw a overwhelming student response to and universities started asking us to lease the platform. We ran the impact and revenue numbers and after that decided to adapt the platform to be B2B SaaS. It’s accelerated since then.
What traction have you seen?
We’re now working with universities across APAC, EMEA and North America, consistently doubling or tripling growth every year and have raised over $3m in investment.
Why has there been such increased investor interest in EdTech?
Better education is at the root of almost every challenge the world is facing. The pandemic exposed a lot of the weaknesses in the education system and further catalysed everyone interest in EdTech, including investors.
What initially attracted investors to your company?
Our first round of angels mostly invested in Vygo because they believed in the founders’ conviction around the mission and our horsepower to bring it into reality.
What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?
Nail your authentic story telling. If you feel like you don’t have an authentic story, dig deeper, you have one, find it and obsess over it.
My biggest fundraising mistake has been…
Limiting myself to close proximating investors, I wasted a lot of time with pools of investors that expected global standards of traction but only wanted to give us “local market standard” terms. We all now have access to global capital so in the same way that investors will have global benchmarks for your traction, startups should have global benchmark expectations for investment terms.
If you had a magic wand and could wave it, what would you wish for to improve the fundraising process for startups?
I would wave that wand to create much more transparency from investors and startups about each other, the deals the are doing and the journey ahead. I’m a big believer that honesty and integrity leads to better deals. I’d wave my wand for something similar to the ingredients list and health ratings on food packaging. I’d love everyone to post the specifics of their deals ($, valuation, special terms, traction, TAM/SAM/SOM, etc.). This would save startups so much money and time spent in negotiation and lawyers. Of course this would create another suite of issues to be solved BUT it’s my magic wand.
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