Sunday 25 August 2019

Shaw Academy to add 600,000 more students this year

After exiting examinership the e-learning platform has set its sights on growth, writes Michael Cogley

Shaw Academy founder James Egan
Shaw Academy founder James Egan

Irish e-learning platform Shaw Academy is planning on adding an additional 600,000 students this year after exiting a short-lived examinership process.

The Dublin-based firm recorded around 1.4 million students on its site last year, the vast bulk of whom had joined through a free trial. While the company has been coy on the percentage of students paying for its online courses, chief executive and founder James Egan said it was in the "high single digits".

"We compare ourselves most to the likes of Dropbox and Spotify, which are B2C models. My understanding is that our conversion rates are much greater than what other people see in the market. Unfortunately, we're not at that scale yet," Egan told the Sunday Independent.

"When you look forward and think about the business over the coming year in particular, we're looking forward to educating in excess of two million students."

The Shaw Academy, which provides more than 70 different online courses, sought the protection of the court at the start of the year after its largest debtor made demands for it to repay €5.7m in loans.

The High Court-appointed examiner, Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton, had sought expressions of interest from investors in order to put a scheme of arrangement in place that would see the company exit examinership within three months.

It is understood 39 bidders registered their interest in the business, which was ultimately narrowed down to six seriously interested parties.

Tennant settled on a €7m bid from a consortium including former Virgin Group chief executive Stephen Murphy, Setanta Sports co-founder Michael O'Rourke, Folens Publishing and Beach Point Capital. The company announced the news last week. The new consortium is understood to have taken almost half of the equity available in the business for its investment.

At the Shaw Academy's court hearing on March 29, Mr Justice McDonald congratulated Tennant on achieving what he described as an "excellent outcome".

Egan said the company now plans on growing its customer base this year before going on to introducing new products to new markets in 2021.

He said the paying students spend, on average, around €39 a month on its services.

Sunday Indo Business

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