Knoma, a UK start-up that offers finance for people looking to digitally upskill, has launched after raising more than £21 million in investment
Knoma helps lifelong learners finance tech courses by enabling them to spread the cost through zero interest and zero fee loans. Users can gain access to a maximum £10,000, paid directly to the schools to undertake a course.
Knoma integrates with its partners by placing a ‘Pay with Knoma’ button on their check out. The cost of the course can be repaid by the student over 12 months. Open Banking technology enables Knoma’s users to complete the sign-up process within minutes and without affecting their credit score.
The company has launched after raising funds from Global Founders Capital (GFC), Rocket Internet, Fasanara Capital and Seedrs. Notable angel investors include Christian Faes Founder and Chairman of LendInvest. Money raised so far is a mix of equity and debt funding.
Founder and CEO Brett Shanley says: “The future of work in the digital economy means continuous learning from 16-65 years old, or as the American’s say K to grey. We are looking to democratise funding of tech and coding courses by removing barriers for upfront payment or having to take out high interest loans. We don’t believe in charging our users and have instead opted to build a business model that charges a merchant fee to our partners and is free to the end- user (the student).”
Shanley says: “Currently many people wishing to undertake a tech course have to take out expensive interest-bearing loans. The government has funding solutions for people who want to do a degree yet there’s nothing to help people take educational courses later in their career – despite it being critical for a well-functioning digital economy.”
The company uses Open Banking to validate people’s expenditure and income to work out whether they are likely to be able to make payments in a responsible manner. Knoma tracks individual users to find out which courses lead to promotions or an uplift in an individual’s salary. Users can use this information to evaluate the likelihood of specific courses helping them get to where they want to go and determine the likely return on investment of a potential course.
Knoma has launched with leading tech and coding schools including Code Institute, Wild Code School, CodeClan, NorthCoders, Learning People, DevelopMe_ and many more. The firm will initially focus on the UK market with a view to expanding globally in the coming years.
Christopher Priebe, a Partner at GFC says: “We believe education should be accessed in a short but frequent manner with a focus on gaining technical and data-driven skills. The digital skills crisis is driven by two factors; first, technological change is accelerating at an ever-faster rate; second, technology and digital skills are critical to an ever-increasing proportion of jobs. Although education has always lagged behind technology, this problem is now more acute than ever, particularly in a post-Covid world.”
According to Accenture, if G20 countries are unable to adapt the supply of skills to meet the needs of the new technological era, they risk forgoing up to US$11.5 trillion in GDP growth over the next 10 years, with the UK alone accounting for £141.5bn to GDP growth impact.1 The World Economic Forum estimates 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling by 2022.2 The UK Government published a report showing 82% of all open job vacancies require digital skills3, while an Open University Report estimates already 88% of UK businesses are reporting low productivity due to their lack digital skills within teams4.
Shanley, who is an ex Nomura investment banker, previously founded a similar company in Australia called Study Loans that raised over AUD$50 million and worked with more than 200 educational institutions. He has been closely following developments in the buy now pay later (BNPL) sector across the online space and their current failure to address the emerging digital education sector.
Francesco Filia, CEO at Fasanara Capital, says: “We are really excited by the Knoma business and feel they have an excellent opportunity to gain a first-mover advantage by offering a specialist Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) for the education sector, helping to tackle the digital skills crisis. We were impressed by the entire Knoma team and what they have managed to build in a very short time period. With our funding, we believe Knoma is set to make a large impact”.
2. World Economic Forum Report: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/the-digital-skills-gap-is-widening-fast-heres-how-to-bridge-it/
4. Open University Report: http://www.open.ac.uk/business/bridging-the-digital-divide
Note: The Knoma team would be delighted to answer any further questions via email or during an interview. More photos can also be supplied on request.