SA’s Knife Capital invests in ed-tech startup SkillUp Tutors

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South African investment firm Knife Capital has invested an undisclosed amount in ed-tech startup SkillUp Tutors to accelerate user acquisition, leverage partnerships with content providers, and scale the business internationally.llup

The Cape Town-based SkillUp offers parents and students across South Africa access to thousands of highly skilled and vetted tutors based on grades, subject, location, and budget.

The SkillUp platform makes it easy to find and communicate with tutors and facilitates the purchasing and scheduling of both in-person and online lessons.

SkillUp – which was recently one of the startups picked for a legal incubation programme run by Webber Wentzel, has been angel-funded to date, but has now received a Series A funding round from Knife Capital. Knife Capital invests via a consortium of funding partnerships, including SARS section 12J Venture Capital Company KNF Ventures and select family offices.

The funding will be used to accelerate user acquisition of learners and tutors, leverage partnerships with content providers, and scale SkillUp outside of South Africa. Since the launch of its website, iOS and Android apps in early 2017, SkillUp has seen significant traction through junior, high school and university students as well as adult learners.

The startup aims to grow its footprint in South Africa with in-person lessons, workshops and online lessons. Through inbound interest from strategic partners, it is also looking at expansion into the UK, other European markets and Southeast Asia.

“The private tutoring industry is highly fragmented and inefficient. We are making tutoring more affordable by radically reducing fees and offering a more transparent service, while ensuring the highest quality and safety,” said Matthew Henshall, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of SkillUp.

“We are excited to be part of the Knife Capital portfolio of venture capital investments and to draw from the team’s experience in guiding early stage businesses to sustainable growth paths and pursuing successful internationalisation strategies.”

Keet van Zyl, investment partner at Knife Capital, which last month also invested in South African machine learning startup DataProphet, said SkillUp offered an enticing value proposition as an investment opportunity.

“Apart from its highly scalable business model and potential exit opportunities down the line, this deal integrates the interests of different stakeholders for the greater good,” he said.

“The concept of ‘conscious capitalism’ underpins some of our core values at Knife, and SkillUp leverages technology elements to enhance real-world engagement in the education space – making a meaningful positive impact on people’s lives.”

Student and adult learning platforms are showing increased course uptake and completion rates where tutors are used to support learners during their studies. SkillUp’s growth focus is to create a worldwide tutor support network and become an outsourced tutor pool to online platforms.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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