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Tech company secures £500k investment

Birmingham-based language technology firm Learning Labs Limited has secured a £500,000 investment to ramp up product development and establish itself in new markets.

The investment round includes finance from some existing investors and £250,000 from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) Equity Finance Fund, managed by venture capital firm Midven.

Established in 2013 by Veejay Lingiah and Richard Allen, Learning Labs originally developed FlashSticks®, a unique language learning system based on 3M’s Post-it Notes.

Sold in more than 500 WHSmith outlets nationwide at launch, the system was supported by Learning Lab’s interactive software platform, FlashAcademy®.

FlashAcademy® enables users to learn English from 45 different home languages. The software also allows users to learn any new language from each of the home languages, providing approximately 2,000 different language learning permutations. This means that while a student can learn English from Spanish, they can also learn French from Spanish, French from Urdu, and so on, from the platform.

While FlashAcademy® is primarily used in the education sector, Learning Labs is currently in the beta phase of developing FlashAcademy®Workplace. This has been developed in close collaboration with The Manufacturing Association, MAKE UK and large corporations such as Jaguar Land Rover and BAM Construction. The new platform creates language bridging solutions for migrant workforces.

Veejay Lingiah, co-founder of Learning Labs, said: “This investment through Midven and MEIF will enable the business to support the tremendous growth and development that we are seeing with FlashAcademy®.

“Within the last few weeks, we have seen an upsurge of more than 20,000 new students being added to the platform as schools and colleges seek out engaging distance learning solutions to maintain learning progress during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“As the education sector continues to adapt to the changing landscape brought upon by the pandemic, the Learning Labs team are working to full capacity in order to help enable young people to successfully learn from home in the same way as most of us are working from home.”

Giovanni Finocchio, investment director of Midven said: “Learning Labs is a great addition to our MEIF portfolio. The company has seen a marked increase in the number of schools and pupils benefiting from FlashAcademy®. By engaging the pupils, the platform helps ensure that they are completing the curriculum while improving their language proficiency.

“The importance of this is more prevalent than ever before as a prime concern for pupils during the COVID-19 lockdown is that they may fall behind in their curriculum. Platforms like FlashAcademy® help manage the learning demands of pupils in this fast evolving climate.

“This round of investment will help Learning Labs further develop its platform and allow its reach to extend towards corporate learning. Learning Labs is following its product development roadmap, increasing sales month-on-month and demonstrating that its future is bright.

“The EdTech sector is vibrant and fast moving. We believe Learning Labs will be a key positive force in this market for years to come.”

Grant Peggie, director at the British Business Bank, said: “It is good to see businesses like Learning Labs adapting and innovating during these challenging times. This latest investment round, supported by the MEIF, will enable the company to develop language software products and move into new markets. The MEIF continues to invest in Midlands’ businesses and we would encourage other firms to consider whether the Fund can support their financing requirements.”

Pat Hanlon, director for Access to Finance at GBSLEP, said: “Learning Labs has a great track record for innovation and has had impressive success already, so we’re looking forward to seeing the company continue to thrive and provide its services in new markets.

"Birmingham and the West Midlands is home to a hugely diverse population where multiple languages are spoken every day, and to see plans in place to link up with big business in the region to help further the skillsets of its workforce is an idea with great potential."

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

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