The Development Bank of Wales and a syndicate of nine business angels are backing a Cardiff start-up with an equity investment of £370,000 that will help transform workplace training.
Lead investor Andrew Diplock has led the fundraise which includes £185,000 from business angels and £185,000 match-funding from the Development Bank’s Wales Angel Co-investment Fund for eLearning company Academii.
Based at Tramshed Tech, Academii is led by Adrian Coles and Steve Lanigan. It was Steve Lanigan who led the management buy-out of Caerphilly-based ALS People with the backing of the Development Bank. He grew the run rate from £13 million in 2018 to £55 million before buying back their 20% stake in 2022.
With a client base that already includes national blue chip companies, Academii aims to revolutionise workplace learning and empower talent to thrive with an online and immersive learning provision that helps up-skill and develop workers under-served by existing provisions.
Academii’s suite of content utilises Extended Reality and Generative AI, covering topics such as health and safety, soft skills, leadership, wellbeing and lean manufacturing.
Director Adrian Coles said: “After nearly two decades in manufacturing, I’ve witnessed first-hand how empowering talent has helped organisations to thrive as we move towards Industry 4.0. By offering digital learning through short, immersive and engaging interventions, we enable industry leaders to enhance both employee capabilities and their business efficiencies.
“In addition to a significantly quicker pace of learning, virtual reality training has also been shown to promote greater focus, giving employees better knowledge retention and improved understanding. We aim to make organisations become aspirational places to work by offering opportunities for their people to flourish, unlocking hidden talent, and creating a pipeline of skilled and motivated colleagues."
Steve Lanigan added: “The Development Bank of Wales and the Angels syndicate we’ve brought together share Academii’s vision of driving economic prosperity, providing opportunity to all and empowering success. This collective knowledge base and shared values provide scale-up additional experience to allow Academii to scale-up and grow.``
Lead investor Andrew Diplock said: “It is crucial that organisations take a more sustainable approach, using training to address their skills gaps from within and reduce their spend in the long-term. Steve, Adrian and the team have developed an interactive, engaging and immersive learning experience to future-proof content and lead the market. It’s a compelling proposition with a highly scalable model which makes it attractive to investors. What’s more, Steve’s previous success with ALS People means that his track record stands him in good stead to grow Academii.”
Tom Preene is Operations Manager for Angels Invest Wales. He said: “Academii is on a mission to push the boundaries of traditional training and skills development. Their courses are created by experienced learning developers, using the latest technology, best-practice tactics, and learner feedback to offer immersive and effective learning experiences fit for the workforce of tomorrow. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to work with this syndicate of business angels and back Steve again with his latest venture.”
The £8 million Wales Angel Co-investment Fund provides Welsh businesses with a key source of alternative finance through the encouragement of more active angel investment. The five year fund supports the creation of angel syndicates and networks across Wales by providing loans and equity up to £250,000 to investors looking for co-investment.