Career Masterclass, an e-learning platform enabling career growth through practical guidance from successful industry leaders, raised over £380,000 from 232 investors. They smashed their target within 24 hours and overfunded with 186%. The mission? To become the one-stop career development platform working to level the playing field for professionals from under-represented or under-served groups by preparing them for the opportunities that exist today and the ones that will arise in the future.
We sat down with Bukola Adisa, founder of Career Masterclass, to discuss the challenges of crowdfunding and her experience raising funds on Seedrs.
Tell us about how Career Masterclass started? Where has your vision taken you so far?
I worked in financial services my entire career and was at a point where I was very senior and had access to rooms full of senior people.. I looked around at my peers and realised that there were not a lot of black people progressing in the corporate field. That’s why I decided to start Career Masterclass, a career development platform with a focus to help black and ethnic minority professionals progress within their careers. The way we do this is by providing our members with exclusive access to mentors, content and resources that can help people to take hold of their career and figure out a way to progress in a world of inequality.
I never thought this was going to become a business, as it birthed from my own struggles in 2015. However, fast forward to now, we are a proper EdTech company with a team, operations and investors. We are also quite fortunate to work with big organisations such as Google, Amazon, Barclays and more. They really see us as trusted advisors and partners because of the work we’ve done and also the consistency and credibility we do it with.
Tell us about your fundraising journey before Seedrs? Did you encounter any difficulties in raising funds?
The Career Masterclass turned into an actual business in 2020, when I went into it full-time, so prior to crowdfunding on Seedrs, we didn’t have a huge fundraising journey. Fortunately, we had, and still have, good advisors working with us. We considered the different funding options, but what we found was that the percentage of funding that goes to women is very minute in terms of institutional investors. In addition, the percentage of funding that goes to black founders is even smaller. When you combine those two factors together, being black and a female founder, you’ll see that this group is the most underfunded.
Whilst trying to secure funding, a lot of investors would say that they love the concept, but it was too early. It was at that time that one of our advisors told me, “You have a great platform and a very engaged community, you should look at equity crowdfunding because you would do well with the crowd. You should let your community be part of your success.”
That’s how we ended up with Seedrs as our partners, because we really wanted to leverage this power of our community and let them share in our success. Also, in the black community, there is a wealth gap, and we believed that our business would do really well in the future so this way they could invest and get the benefits in the future.
When you came to Seedrs, why did you decide it was the right time to raise a round?
We decided it was the right time to raise a round because we had a lot of activity on our platform and everything so far had been bootstrapped. We had the first version of the platform live and the feedback was really good, but we wanted to go a step further and start scaling it. That’s why we needed capital to improve our platform, start building a team and a structure around the business.
Did you have any specific goals from your crowdfunding round?
Yes, there were 3 main things.
- We wanted to raise money.
- We wanted to create more brand awareness whilst attracting new business.
- We didn’t want our business to be purely UK focused, we wanted to be seen as a global platform that is accessible to everyone. So because of our crowdfunding round, people from different countries and regions could invest in our business and become part of our community.
We were able to get more than we initially targeted. We hit our fundraising goal after 24 hours of going live and were mentioned in a lot of reputable press like the Financial Times. Career Masterclass now has more than 200 investors from over 20 countries which is a really great outcome for us.
Why did you choose Seedrs? Why did you feel we were the right partner for your business?
What really attracted us to Seedrs was the customer service and care that we were treated with. We really felt like there was an understanding of our business and it felt personalised, not as if we were just any other business. I also spoke to other founders that went through the process and they all highly recommended Seedrs.
How did you pitch crowdfunding to your lead investors?
We had two angel investors to lead this round. They weren’t very familiar with crowdfunding when we pitched it to them, but eventually they really loved the idea. What I essentially said to them was that they would be able to see whether their investment was validated, or not, through the crowd. If people invest, that means they’ve made a good investment.
They really loved the buzz that this campaign generated on social media, the press coverage and the awareness around the business.
Talk us through what running a campaign was like? Were there any challenging aspects to it?
Running a campaign is very stressful and intense. There are so many different aspects to crowdfunding: the messaging, the video, legal and compliance matters, the forum, the slides etc. I got very much involved in all of this. I was really exhausted when it was all over, but the end results were amazing as we now have a bit of fire power to take our business to the next level. So all in all, it’s worth it.
What investor feedback did you receive, and how has it helped you navigate your crowdfunding campaign and growth?
Some investors gave us real time feedback about what could be more detailed like our deck or our financials. Through the process we received a lot of valuable feedback to improve our campaign and get more investors on board.
Did you experience any setbacks during raising funds being a black female founder?
I don’t think I did. On the forum it doesn’t really matter, people assess the opportunity on the strength of the proposition and not based on the founders. When it comes to institutional funding, women and black women don’t do very well, but when it comes to equity crowdfunding they actually do extremely well because it’s a genuinely level playing field. Investors mostly assess your business based on the value of the proposition, not gender or race.
What were some of the aspects of crowdfunding you weren’t aware of that turned out to be essential for a successful round?
Three things that took me by surprise were:
- The amount of messages you receive
- The number of people that look at your campaign day after day.
- The amount of exposure we received which can be both positive and negative. But this also meant that we got institutional investors calling us to tell us that we are now on their radar for our next round.
What were some of the highlights of your campaign?
- Hitting our target within 24 hours after going live. I would’ve been happy if we had hit it within a week, but I never thought we would hit it in 24 hours.
- One of the PR pieces that we did during the crowdfunding campaign was picked up by the FT and that gave us a lot of positive press coverage.
What have the proceeds from crowdfunding/your Seedrs round helped you achieve so far, and what plans do you have in the pipeline for the upcoming months?
It has helped us to launch our new platform as well as produce better quality content. We’re now sharing Netflix-standard masterclasses on our platform which looks more professional and is more engaging for our community members.
We’ve also built an amazing team with people across marketing, sales, tech and operations. This has enabled us to scale our business and onboard more clients.
Going forward into 2022, we want to really focus on revenue generation. Our revenue model is very much skewed towards enterprise sales so we’re actually in the process of onboarding our first enterprise sales and partnership employee, so this person will really focus on getting these sales in. Also, we’ll be focusing on our product roadmap.
Aside from the funds, what have been the long term benefits of your crowdfunding campaign?
The exposure and the awareness. It has given me a whole new perspective on what PR can do for a business. We are more out there now and people know about us.
The investors that we’ve been able to get along the way have been really helpful too. Someone we met on our Seedrs journey is now helping us as a product advisor. Other investors are advising us and opening their network to us.
To find out more about Career Masterclass, visit their business page.
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