StudentFinance.com, a fintech company building the technology and data infrastructure to enable education providers globally to offer Income Share Agreements (ISAs), has secured a USD5.3 million (EUR4.5 million) seed round co-led by Giant Ventures and Armilar Venture Partners, with the intention to expand its operation into the UK later this year.
Existing investors Mustard Seed Maze and Seedcamp, along with Sabadell Venture Capital, are also participating in the round, as well as a strong list of angel investors, which includes: Victoria van Lennep (founder of Lendable); Martin Villig (founder of Bolt); Ed Vaizey (the UK’s longest-serving Culture & Digital Economy Minister); Firestartr (UK-based early-stage VC); Serge Chiaramonte (UK fintech investor); and more.
StudentFinance, which launched at the beginning of 2020, is helping to plug the growing skills gap and democratise education simultaneously, by providing both the technology infrastructure for education providers to offer flexible payment plans in the form of ISAs and data intelligence on the employment market to predict job demand. In its first year of operation, StudentFinance has partnered with more than 35 education providers across several European countries, managing over EUR5 million worth of ISAs, growing this figure more than 100x during the pandemic.
The fintech firm is working with some established schools and upskilling platforms including Ironhack and Le Wagon and will use this funding to triple the size of its team, hiring specialists in product, data, engineering and design, as well as operations, HR, finance and legal. StudentFinance’s augmented team plans to launch in the UK and other European markets in the coming months.
Due to the digital acceleration and changes in working habits associated with the pandemic, nine in 10 UK workers will need to reskill by 2030. With an ISA, students only start paying back tuition once they are employed and earning above a minimum income threshold, with payments structured as a percentage of their earnings. Being a success-based model, centred on employment outcomes and with no interest to accumulate, the risk is shifted away from the students. These ISAs are the first success-based model that connects payments to income, aligning all parties’ interests towards securing employment opportunities for users. Of StudentFinance’s cohort of students from January 2020, 17 per cent are already in the repayment stage, having mastered the skills necessary to secure more lucrative employment, generating on average a 45 per cent increase in income.
StudentFinance’s predictive models and technology infrastructure democratises access to education by creating an intelligence layer between talent, education, and employment while maximising employment outcomes. The company analyses real-time job market data down to the skill level, before selecting education programmes based on their alignment with job market demand and performance outcomes. In turn, students are assessed based on their future earning potential, and not past income or employment history.
StudentFinance was founded in 2019 by Mariano Kostelec, Marta Palmeiro, Sergio Pereira and Miguel Santo Amaro. Kostelec and Santo Amaro previously built Uniplaces into the largest student housing platform in Europe, raising over USD30 million from investors such as Atomico and Octopus. Palmeiro spent 10 years at Credit Suisse in London and Madrid and co-founded Portugal Fintech. Pereira brings the technical expertise, having spent several years as CTO of FutureFuel, a Boston-based student loan repayment business.
Kostelec says: “We are incredibly excited to have secured such high calibre investors and to have received the continued support of our existing investors, who all believe in our mission of removing barriers to education and empowering economic mobility. With StudentFinance, it takes an average of just four months for reskilled students to find more lucrative employment compared to the UK market average, where the majority of graduates only find employment up to 15 months on from completing their studies. The pandemic has only reinforced the need for solutions that enable people to access quality education to secure employment opportunities and we are making it a reality.”
Palmeiro adds: “We are on a mission to democratise education and our ISAs are the ultimate solution for fair and affordable access to the skills people need to find employment in this ever-changing digital world. Our seed round of funding will help us to achieve our ambitious goals of partnering with 150 schools and securing EUR30 million in ISAs by launching in the UK and two other countries. In five years we want to reach EUR500 million worth of ISAs as we continue to develop our predictive model for skills demand.”
Cameron Mclain, Managing Partner of Giant Ventures, comments: “The form and funding of education needs to evolve for the modern world. Education should not leave students burdened with debt. What StudentFinance has built empowers any educational institution to offer ISAs as an alternative to upfront tuition or student loans, broadening access to education and opportunity.”
Duarte Mineiro, Partner at Armilar Venture Partners, comments: “StudentFinance is a great opportunity to invest in because aside from its very compelling core purpose, this is a sound business where its economics are backed by a solid proprietary software technology. StudentFinance will make a real impact on the life of students across the globe and help to broaden access to more formal technical training, bringing more innovation to the market and contributing to economic development. We couldn’t be more excited about the journey ahead.”
Sia Houchangnia, Partner at Seedcamp, comments: “The need for reskilling the workforce has never been as acute as it is today and we believe StudentFinance has an important role to play in tackling this societal challenge. When we first met Mariano, Marta, Sergio and Miguel, we were immediately impressed by their ambition and the team who have the perfect combination of operational, financial and technical expertise. We are delighted to see all the progress they’ve made since we first invested in their pre-seed round in 2019. In a short amount of time, they’ve built a strong team, a software layer that uniquely understands the job market and have already helped many students upskill, enabling them to significantly increase their income.”