Edinburgh edtech firm Gecko plots US expansion and unveils 'major coup' hire

Gecko, the Edinburgh-based education technology specialist, is plotting further global expansion after hiring a high-profile chairman in a “major coup”.

Left to right: Neil Jordan, Ruth Walker, Heather Di Rollo and Matthew Lanham of Gecko. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Jeremy Cooper, a former president at Hobsons, and senior executive at Blackboard – the world’s largest educational technology group – and RM Education, becomes the capital firm’s non-executive chairman as it enters its next phase of growth.

The company’s technology, which has already been utilised by more than ten million students, enables higher education institutions, primarily universities in the UK and the US, to better engage with, recruit and enrol students.

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Gecko has launched a series of initiatives to help the sector address challenges thrown up by the pandemic. These include the launch of an artificial intelligence-driven free chat facility, ResponseBot, that has enabled around 60 universities to deliver automated, up-to-the-minute information to students.

Alongside virtual on-campus and online events, the firm has delivered free voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to customers.

Despite the challenging economic backdrop in 2020, the firm had a record-breaking year, winning 17 new university and college clients in the UK and US.

Chief executive and founder Matthew Lanham said: “Every higher education institution is different, but they all face very similar challenges. We take the time, human resources and other capacity of our customers and make it work harder, and are constantly working on solutions to the kind of problems higher education institutions face every day.

“What we’ve seen during the pandemic is that universities have stepped up digital transformation in the face of Covid, and we’ve seen our technology really come into its own over the last 12 months.

“The next year will be about continual product improvements, and further expansion into North America. To get someone of Jeremy’s calibre on board to help guide our growth strategy is a major coup for Gecko, and we look forward to his support in the months and years ahead.”

The firm has hired six people to its team in 2020, with headcount now standing at 40. It raised its most recent investment round in 2019, a £2 million funding injection led by Mercia Asset Management and including Scottish Investment Banks’s Co-Investment Fund.

Lanham said he expects to embark on the next investment round later this year, adding: “As we continue to scale the business, we are actively speaking to the venture capital community about our next phase of growth.”

New chairman Cooper said: “Gecko is one of the most exciting and dynamic edtech companies in the UK, with an international mindset evidenced by the progress made in the US to date.

“I look forward to working with Matt and the team, who have already developed best-of-class technology, and making sure the company realises its significant potential in the UK and North American markets.”

During the first quarter of 2021, the firm has signed a series of clients including South Texas College in the US and Queens University Belfast in the UK.

The company also has offices in London and New York. Other higher education clients include the University of California, Western Kentucky University, San Francisco State University, University of Cambridge and the University of St Andrews.

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