LAUNCHPAD: 21 year-old scores $1m funding for educational app

George Burgess has landed funding from Index Ventures and the Innocent Drinks' founders for his Gojimo revision app.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 15 Aug 2014

George Burgess was studying for his A Levels when he realised there weren’t any apps around to help with revision. Now, still aged just 21, the Stanford dropout has landed just over $1m (£607,000) to fund the expansion of his business as he launches as a new educational app.

The funding round was led by Index Ventures, which backs companies such as SoundCloud, Dropbox and The Cambridge Satchel Company. Innocent Drinks founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright also put money into EducationApps through their vehicle JamJar Investments.

The money is being use to fund the roll-out and further development of Gojimo, an app for students to buy textbooks and quizzes for iPhones or iPads, and which will eventually connect students and let teachers track progress and set assignments.

The app, which launched yesterday on the Apple store, currently only has content from Oxford University Press and McGraw Hill (which covers American exams), but Burgess confirmed that he was in talks with ‘most’ of the other ‘major publishers’.

Burgess launched his first app - a revision aid for Geography GCSE - in November 2009 with his teacher Will Williams, after Williams caught him emailing a developer in class at St Paul’s, a west London private school which educated chancellor George Osborne (don’t we all wish we’d had teachers that cool). Williams is still an adviser, and may get equity options in the company.

Then, whereas most of us veered between angst and #YOLO at the age of 18, Burgess was getting established publishers on board, doing his first deal with Pearson in April 2010. The company’s current apps, most of which are for third parties, have been downloaded over 250,000 times.

‘It was an unusual circumstance to be in,’ Burgess said. ‘I know they checked with their lawyers, because they weren’t sure whether I was over 18 or not.’

Burgess took a gap year, and secured £100,000 of funding from friends and family (who, with Burgess, still make up the majority of shareholders in the company). He then followed in that fine tech tradition pioneered by Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs et al, and dropped out of studying ‘science, technology and society’ at Stanford after 18 months, after taking time out to work on the business.

‘The opportunity was big enough to justify whatever risk there might be,’ Burgess said. ‘There’s this stigma in society that one needs a university degree, when that’s not necessarily true. If I had to start applying for jobs tomorrow my CV would look pretty good.’

Despite admitting that he’s missing out on the traditional university experience, Burgess said he has no regrets. ‘I absolutely love working and running Gojimo. I have so much fun doing that, and I think I probably learn more than I did being at university.’

Burgess, who doesn’t write the apps himself, said he thinks there is still ‘a huge amount of growth to come’ for his company, which is now solely focusing on Gojimo.

‘We’ve been doing this since 2009, and what’s really, really interesting is that there’s been a huge amount of competition which has appeared, [but] most of it’s complete crap,’ he said.

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