Wednesday, 1 March 2023

StudentFinance nabs $41M to help Europeans upskill for in-demand jobs

by Berkeley Lovelace

StudentFinance nabs M to help Europeans upskill for in-demand jobs

StudentFinance, a European fintech that funds educational programs for individuals through so-called income share agreements, has raised €39 million ($41 million) in a Series A round of funding.

Founded out of Spain in 2019, StudentFinance partners with educational institutions such as Ironhack and Le Wagon to help finance those looking to upskill into disciplines like software development, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, serving as an alternative to traditional bank or student loans.

The company says that it has developed AI models to discover the most in-demand skills across sectors and map this to the most suitable education providers catering to that gap.

“We monitor and track publicly available job listing data, showing trends and fluctuations in labour demand,” StudentFinance co-founder and CEO Mariano Kostelec explained to TechCrunch. “We also use data from analyzing systemic and market changes such as government incentives for companies to become ‘greener.’ This gives us data on future growth — or declining — sectors.”

On top of that, Kostelec also said that they track salary data, which can indicate demand for specific skills.

“We are developing machine learning models that use this data to forecast future job-market demand for specific skills, and predict income levels in the future,” Kostelec continued. “This is an area we will be increasingly investing in.”

Indeed, Kostelec said that they plan to use their new funding to expand their own internal data and AI capabilities through strategic hires, enabling it to better predict job market demand.

From the student’s perspective, income share agreements mean that graduates only pay for their tuition when their salary hits a set threshold, after which they repay a percentage of their monthly income back to StudentFinance over a set number of installments that fluctuate based on earnings. If they never enter into employment, then they don’t repay anything, though they are still liable for repayments if they get any kind of job that hits the earnings threshold, even if it’s completely unrelated to their course.

On top of the interest repayments garnered from each student, StudentFinance’s revenue stream includes fees that it charges course providers for each student who starts a course.

StudentFinance co-founders Marta Palmeiro (CFO) and Mariano Kostelec (CEO) Image Credits: StudentFinance

Fourth industrial revolution

The funding comes as the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that more than 1 billion people will need to retrain by the end of the decade, with the so-called fourth industrial revolution enacting rapid societal change through technologies such as AI and automation. As such, a slew of VC-backed student funding platforms have emerged of a similar ilk to StudentFinance, including San Francisco–based YC alum Blair, New York’s Leif, and Arlington’s Vemo Education.

StudentFinance is looking to do the same, but with a focus on the European market. The platform and financing is currently available in Spain, Portugal, and the U.K., though it has also partnered with education providers in Germany and Finland to provide its platform on a SaaS basis, with the institutions themselves organizing the funding. Later this year, StudentFinance plans to expand its full service into Germany, having already received regulatory clearance from the German financial regulator (BaFin).

“The demand for workforce upskilling has never been greater,” Kostelec said. “We’re on a mission to plug this gap across Europe. We aim to expand our coverage to build the workforce for the future, in particular in areas such as technology, AI and climate change.”

Prior to now, StudentFinance had raised a $5.3 million seed round of funding nearly two years ago, and with a fresh $41 million cash injection, the Spanish startup is well-financed to support both its lending capital and operational costs, as well as bolster its hiring ambitions.

Furthermore, the Madrid-based company is also gearing up to launch alternative repayment options, including fixed installments, which are set monthly amounts not directly linked to the student’s earnings.

The Series A round constitutes a mix of equity and debt, though the company declined to disclose the split. It did say that 70% of the round’s “funding capacity” would be allocated to Spain and Germany, with the remaining amount targeted at the U.K. where it soft-launched last year.

The equity element was led by Iberis Capital, with participation from Armilar Venture Partners, Mustard Seed Maze, Giant Ventures, Seedcamp
, Monzo founder Tom Blomfield, and former U.K. MP Ed Vaizey. The debt element was provided by French asset manager SmartLenders Asset Management.

StudentFinance nabs $41M to help Europeans upskill for in-demand jobs by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch