Online tutoring websites bring tuition to the mass market

MyTutorWeb, which runs online classrooms, has attracted investment from heavy-hitters in private equity, says Rebecca Burn-Callander.

MyTutorWeb, a start-up that matches students with Britain’s top undergraduates in online classrooms, raised £1m from high-profile investors after growing 400pc in 2014.

The company, which was founded by former City executive Robert Grabiner and Durham University maths graduate Bertie Hubbard three years ago, has assembled a consortium of 15 angel investors.

Stephen Welton, boss of BGF, the growth fund for entrepreneurs, and Stephen Grabiner, formerly partner at Apax, the private equity firm, have both invested in the business. The founders still retain the majority stake in the business.

MyTutorWeb, which claims to be the service “for when the world’s best tutor doesn’t live next door”, wants to make one-to-one tuition more affordable and accessible for pupils.

Online tutoring starts at £18 per hour, compared to the industry average of £22.31.

An estimated 24pc of pupils have used a tutor over the past year, with that figure rising to 40pc in London. The market is worth £6.5bn in the UK with 2.8 million pupils being tutored at any one time.

“We’re still very small but we’re growing enormously,” says Mr Grabiner. “This investment will allow us to get out there and shout about our concept.”

The investment will be spent on honing MyTutorWeb’s online technology, improving the interactive experience for pupils, as well as marketing and operating costs.

“Our whole business depends on an excellent user interface,” said Mr Hubbard.

The online business, which currently boasts 900 tutors, can be accessed from anywhere in the UK and beyond. Customers have accessed the site from 45 countries.

All the tutors are undergraduates from top universities and parents can meet up with a tutor for free before engaging their services.

London has historically been the prime market for tutoring but MyTutorWeb is finding traction regionally.

“Only 17pc of our tutorials are in London,” said Mr Hubbard. “We’re grabbing market share outside the capital because there isn’t an accessible pool of specialists.”

And the vast majority – 82pc – of MyTutorWeb’s pupils are state educated.

Education technology is a fast-growing market in the UK; it is estimated that 1,000 so-called edtech ventures are based in this country and they account for 4pc of Britain’s digital businesses.

The global education technology sector is worth £45bn and poised to reach £129bn by 2021, according to a report by London & Partners and Edtech UK.

Edtech UK is a new strategic body, set up by the Government, which aims to promote the sector. It was officially launched today.

It will aim to provide a “front door” for industry, investors, government and educators and “a convening voice for all of the education and learning technology sector”.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said of the new body: “London has all the ingredients to become the edtech capital of the world – a thriving technology sector, the city is globally recognised for education excellence and a leading financial centre.”