Wambiz tackles student retention with student and educator bridge

Innovation Birmingham-based private social network platform secures more than £1m in investment

Education social network startup Wambiz has secured £1m in investment over the past two years by targeting the issue of student retention.

Wambiz is a private social network which creates virtual engagement platforms to connect students with educators.

The company received £400,000 in investment from families, friends and a number of angel investors. Allan Murdoch, former executive chairman of telecoms provider Hipcom, made a further £600,000 of angel investment in August.

Based at Innovation Birmingham, Wambiz was founded by Harry Jawanda and Andrew West, who met whilst playing hockey for England.

CEO and co-founder Jawanda said the company wanted to create a system for young people who talk to each other using Facebook and Snapchat, but talk to teachers via email. 

“Facebook blurs the lines between school and personal lives, so it’s not ideal. There is a big problem with online and cyber bullying, so this is a safer way to bridge that gap,” he said.

According to Jawanda, if a student joins a college and leaves after six weeks the college does not qualify for funding for tuition.

“The Wambiz platform is ideal for students to make friends and to interact with more people on their course. It’s about making sure they stay in education and they enjoy the course, but it's also about ensuring those students get the support they need," said Jawanda.

"Some people prefer to type their issues instead of sharing them in person. For instance, if you are all working in one maths group you can see each other’s answers, work together and support each other in showing your work,” he said.  

“It’s ideal for those students who don’t normally want to put their hand up – it breaks down those barriers for them."

Jawanda has a degree in information technology management for business from Birmingham University. He moved to London to work in the financial services sector at Morgan Stanley, before looking into the possibility of starting a business in the hospitality industry.

Having known Jawanda for more than 14 years, West also moved to London to work for Deutsche Bank and invested in Jawanda’s first hospitality venture.

They both realised the education industry showed more promise, so decided to quit their jobs to co-found Wambiz.

Wambiz has worked with six further education colleges so far, after a successful pilot scheme with South Staffordshire College at the beginning of 2014. Jawanda said the college has seen a 90% uptake by students.

“For the future we plan to get as many schools, universities and colleges on the platform as possible and to show that we can really make a difference,” he said.

Wambiz became Innovation Birmingham’s 100th startup to work out of its base at the Science Park.

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