Founder Interview: Knoma, the payment solution and learning ecosystem for digital skills

Founder Interview: Knoma, the payment solution and learning ecosystem for digital skills

22nd June 2020 by Michaela Salomon

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In an increasingly digital world, technical skills have never been more of an asset for career development and lifelong learning. However, courses often come at a steep cost, and are a daunting commitment for those already tackling full time jobs. 

That’s where Knoma steps in. Knoma’s marketplace offers users a plethora of digital skills courses, and a payment solution to spread the cost of those courses over 12 months. Its many educational partners, and “pay with Knoma” button, bring an e-commerce approach to education, promoting accessibility and affordability for all. 

We sat down with founder and CEO Brett Shanley to find out more.

What is Knoma all about?

I had previous experience in the fintech and edtech space. Knoma’s story started back in 2016 with my first business. I was extremely passionate about promoting the need for lifelong learning, but felt the financial options and support available in the market were not suitable with most requiring high interest loans. 

We’re on a mission to revolutionise access to lifelong learning. We believe that in today’s digital economy, it’s critical for everyone to be continuously learning throughout their careers. We’re essentially removing the barrier of payment by providing interest and fee-free loans. We want to be the Klarna for education. 

What has been the biggest success for the company so far? 

Knoma is still a very young company. But the success to date has been raising £750k from GFC and Rocket Internet. We also have our first wave of customers using the product. It has been amazing to hear their positive feedback and the team is now even more excited about the future than ever before.

How is Knoma benefitting its users? 

Knoma provides users four main benefits: 

1) The “Pay with Knoma” button gives users the ability to spread the cost of a tech or coding course over 12 months. Courses can cost anywhere from £250 and to £10,000. 

2) We don’t charge them any interest or fees. Our aim is to alway provide our product completely free to the end user.

3) Our Knoma app helps the user to establish where they have gaps in their knowledge and makes recommendations on which courses are likely to give them the biggest ROI. 

4) The app also provides a loyalty programme where points can be used to gain discounts on further courses and other related products. 

What are exciting features/products in the pipeline? 

The app is still in prototype phase, but we are excited to fully release this soon. The app will provide users with a whole ecosystem to manage repayments, discover skill gaps, search for future courses and be rewarded for their learning. This is hugely exciting for us.

Knoma would also like to offer a revolving credit facility in the future, which would allow users to to sign only one agreement with Knoma (similar to a credit card) and would give them the ability to keep using the facility over and over again for Knoma-approved courses and providers. 

What resources are available to users and which partners do you work with to enhance the user offering? 

Knoma tries to use best of breed partners throughout. For instance, we have partnered with TrueLayer to seamlessly confirm our users income and expenditure and Onfido to undertake a fast identity check. 

Knoma is aiming in the near future to establish a scholarship fund where Knoma grants scholarship to users who will have their course costs fully covered by Knoma (without the need to repay). Knoma is aiming to widen access to digital skills in areas of society that otherwise find it difficult to break into the exciting and fast-paced tech industry. Knoma wants to be a positive force for users in their professional and personal development.

What does the competitive landscape look like and how does Knoma stand out? 

Most private student loan providers operate an outdated business model which charges the users high levels of interest and focuses on traditional higher education. We believe this is too too expensive, too time-consuming and overly academic. We’re capturing a growing market, by offering something completely new and different to users through a resource that’s free for them to use.

What are some recent growth stats and what does Knoma’s runway look like? 

Knoma has only recently launched with a handful of partner schools and we are already seeing strong take-up, which can be illustrated by the fact Knoma is already in the process of closing a £20m debt facility to accelerate and grow the user base. We have an exciting 12 months ahead of us. After the closure of the current Seedrs round the business will have 12-18 months of runway. 

What will be the primary use of proceeds from this round? 

We’ll use this raise to extend the runway of the business by another 12 – 18 months. Our aim is to scale the business and metrics to ensure we’re able to close a successful Series A afterwards. Knoma is in a great position having already built an extremely robust and comprehensive technology stack to securely scale. 

How would you describe your company culture?

We are a young and hungry team, who are passionate about driving change in the way digital skills are accessed. We want to democratise digital learning and really empower people to gain the skills they need to prosper in a modern digital society.  

What’s one skill you’re personally working on right now? 

I am constantly working on my people management skills. I think it is really important to be able to adapt your management style. I want my team, users and partners to be proud to be part of the Knoma journey.

What is your best life hack to survive lockdown? 

I have created a standup desk with two connected monitors to make sure that even when I’m stuck in front of a screen or on calls, I’m still making time to move.

To find out more about the investment opportunity, visit Knoma’s pitch.

Michaela Salomon

Michaela Salomon

Campaign Support Team

Digital Agency Kent