Fergal Mullen’s Highland Europe leads $20m investment in Unibuddy

7 Jul 2021

Image: Unibuddy

The Irishman said the UK start-up’s edtech platform is a ‘huge win for universities’ after a record-breaking year of growth.

Former Silicon Republic Start-up of the Week Unibuddy has announced Series B funding of $20m.

Founded in 2017, the edtech start-up has raised $32m in funding to date for its direct messaging platform connecting universities with prospective students.

The company’s latest investment is led by Highland Europe, a growth-stage technology fund co-founded by Irishman Fergal Mullen.

“The higher education market is projected to reach almost $118bn by 2027 and areas such as recruitment and retention are ripe for innovation,” said Mullen, who is a partner at Highland Europe.

Highland Europe learned from university administrators that Unibuddy enabled them to effectively target suitable student applicants and improve success on offers made.

Anum Akhtar, student recruitment manager at Imperial College, said that almost half of new prospects went on to apply to the university after chatting with an ambassador on Unibuddy.

“We also noted that Unibuddy positively impacts first-year retention which is a huge win for universities,” added Mullen.

Next steps for Unibuddy

Unibuddy has seen its business almost triple through the impact of the global pandemic and the acceleration of universities’ digital transformation.

In what was a record-breaking year for the company, the number of messages sent by college applicants via Unibuddy’s platform quadrupled in 2020.

More than 450 higher education clients across 35 countries are using the platform to answer queries from prospective students. The UK represents Unibuddy’s largest market with 80pc of the region’s higher education institutions signed up, including the University of Cambridge, Imperial College and King’s College London.

Unibuddy has also secured a partnership with UCAS, a UK admissions service managing almost 3m applications every year.

The company has now set its sights on growth in the US and Asia-Pacific region.

“By 2025, our goal is to partner with institutions to empower 10m students to progress on their higher education journey,” said co-founder and CEO Diego Fanara.

Unibuddy currently has more than 100 employees across New York, London, Bangalore and Singapore.

“We will triple the size of our engineering team, expanding our product suite and with it, our role in the higher education journey – from selecting a programme, to onboarding to post-graduation,” said Fanara.

Additional participation in Unibuddy’s Series B round came from Stride VC.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.