Liverpool-based EdTech SupplyWell has raised £1m in investment.
Supplywell’s launched in 2019 by a team of former teachers and leaders to helps schools connect directly with teachers, teaching assistants and cover supervisors.
The fast-growing company has expanded to 21 staff, 70 schools and hit £1m revenue but that didn’t make their attempts at raising money any easier.
Speaking at the recent launch event of Liverpool Tech Climbers 2024, co-founder Michael Heverin said they started the process of fundraising in October 2022, stepping up their efforts at the start of 2023.
Supplywell quickly received a pledge of £500,000 from the Development Bank of Wales on the condition the company secured some match-funding.
“The Development Bank of Wales were absolutely fantastic, the whole team, really passionate about the project,” recalled Heverin.
“The fact that we had a commitment of £500k from an institutional funder was really good for us. Everybody wants someone else to jump first and we had someone else to jump first but nobody wanted to jump second.
“To try and cobble together the £200,000 to meet the £500,000 that had already been committed proved extraordinarily difficult.
“Coming from education, fundraising is a relatively new thing for me but talking to people much more experienced in this area than me, the last 12 months have been the most difficult time to raise cash in recent history.”
The former footballer came up with the idea for Supplywell from his experiences as teacher, where he identified a problem of teachers going off work with stress.
He recognised that agencies were making a lot of money out of supply teachers as the expense of schools and teachers themselves so launched Supplywell, which connects supply teachers with schools.
Ironically, Heverin said the company’s challenges in raising money came at a time when Supplywell had never been doing so well.
“All our metrics in terms of school numbers, volumes of teachers and job creation for supply teachers was going through the roof,” he said.
“We were on course to have our best year. What we were finding were existing portfolio companies were hungry for cash so VCs weren’t raising any capital for new ventures.
“High net worth individuals were finding they could get just as good a return with much less risk by putting it into high interest accounts. Nobody was really active and it was very frustrating.’
Heverin said Rob Jones, of RJF Accountants, was key eventually to unlocking the investment.
“Rob is a spectacular guy and he introduced us to James Phillips, who is a four times founder with multiple exits,” he said.
“He’s been there and done it. He was the inverse of every investor that we’d previously met until this point. He knows a lot of like-minded people.
“He said ‘I can help you’. He knows what early stage companies are looking for from investors. He really got us in a place now where we’re re-investable.”
Phillips is the head of private ventures at Oberon Investments and he made the crucial introduction to the London-based investment house that provided the bulk of the investment.
The remainder of the money came from a mixture of angel investors and friends and family.
Heverin said the startup was now well placed to grow, having recently expanded into Manchester and Cardiff.
“This investment allows us to scale into new regions, bringing real solutions to schools beyond the Liverpool City Region,” he said.
“It will help us help school leaders not only make their budgets go further through predictive data but to add real value to their students’ outcomes and the wider school community.
“At the same time, we can create more consistent, flexible and better-paid job opportunities for teachers.”
Supplywell is part of Liverpool City Region Tech Climbers, which is an annual list showcasing the region’s top performing and innovative tech companies.
Entries and nominations close for LCR Tech Climbers on December 1st, 2023 and the full list and ones to watch list will be announced at a big reveal event in February, 2024.