Perlego is a London based startup that provides a subscription service for books (not just textbooks). One thing that will help you grow and support your personal development is life long learning. No matter who you are – a student or a business professional – as long as you keep learning, you keep growing. Perlego provides an online library that is providing learning materials accessible to everyone.
This week, our guest is Matt Davis – the founder and CTO of Perlego. We had a great interview and learned about the business thoroughly. In the video documentary below, you may listen to their startup journey, challenges they confronted back in the days, their key milestones and many more!
Startup video documentary: Perlego
Uncut founder interview: Perlego
The journey of the business
The business started in 2016 with the intention of making learning accessible to everyone. They’re doing this by offering an online library with over 200K e-books. They work directly with the best educational publishers such as Pearson, Cengage, Princeton University Press and Wiley. Besides having a wide variety of book selection, the price of this amazing library is less than just one book! (12 pounds for students).
The target market is students at the moment. As Matt mentions in the interview, there are 40 million students total in the UK and in the USA, and 200 million worldwide. They offer a wide range of textbooks in many different subjects (business and science subjects mostly). Besides students, they also provide service to B2B clients who want to promote their employees’ learning internally.
For now, the service is provided only in the UK and Europe but they have an ambition to expand the business worldwide.
We’re on a mission, we’ve been on the same mission since the beginning. We’re just making learning accessible with what we have.
The core value proposition stayed the same from the beginning for Perlego. In the early days of the business, they also wanted to expand the business into the B2B market. At that point, they had to make some minor iterations in sales and marketing to make their product perfectly fits both of the target clients’ needs. (Students and business professionals).
Dealing with challenges
One of the biggest challenge Perlego dealt with throughout the time was choosing the target audience for their product. Should they focus only on students or get into B2B market to provide learning materials for business professionals as well? It was a big decision to make for them because the learning and studying habits differ for both target audience.
Students stick to the core materials and other things that are related. They tend to create more highlights and notations that will be useful for their essays and so on. The system also has a tool that allows users to export citation materials. On the other hand, B2B professionals are most likely independent learners. They tend to read a bit about any thing to learn about everything instead of studying a certain topic
Initial seed round with angel investors back in 2016, they managed to get an office in London and started with core hires. Since the second investment they’ve received in 2018, they’ve been growing more and faster as a team. In about a year and a half the headcount increased from 10 to 35 people!
The latest investment they’ve received is $9 million in Series A funding, and the total investment reached to $15 million!
The reason they chose London mainly because most of the academic publishers are located in London. Also, there are plenty of reputable universities in the UK where Perlego runs embassador campaigns. They actually go to campuses and setting up stands to tell them what kind of value they are bringing to life.
Another greatest thing about London is, there are a lot of VC’s. You’ll have opportunities to pitch your business to receive funding and grow your business.
One of the most important and complex parts of a business is the “people”. And the company culture is a major topic that a business must work on to create an enjoyable workplace for the employee.
Perlego also makes a point to invest in their company culture from the beginning. Matt expresses the importance of a company culture with these words: “When we’re growing the team, we knew how important it was to make sure that everyone enjoys working here.”
They don’t have a culture at Perlego where the managers tell the employees what to do or think. The ecosystem there is really collaborative. It is very important for people and especially for managers to say when they don’t know about something or made a mistake. Perlego follows the fail-fast approach where they learn from their mistakes and move forward quickly.
Startup culture is about owning the business and taking initiative. At Perlego, people are given quite a lot of autonomy and responsibility. They are always rewarded for positive contribution and encouraged to be better together.
Tech tools to depend on
The improvement in technology made development and some services a lot easier than it was 15-20 years ago. Perlego has build and still developing their own platform along with the cloud infrastructure.
It is a vital part of a business to understand your customers. As Matt mentions, they wanted to make sure that they have a clear understanding of what the users are doing on their platform and help them to understand which features are doing well or not working. They’ve used different data analytics tools such as Data Studio, PowerBI, ChartMogul and so on.
Stripe is also another tool they’re using to handle all the payments. This allows them not to worry about processing information and improves security for the users.
On the marketing side, they’re using Salesforce for B2B marketing&CRM, and mainly social channels to advertise and reach to the B2C customers.
Future goals & milestones
Perlego’s key milestone for the future is to expand the business to the US markets and eventually worldwide. In the future, they’ll be developing tools for students where they can collaborate with each other and learn in better ways.
Another goal of Perlego is enabling certain futures that would help those with disabilities with learning.
They already have a great database for making learning accessible for everyone yet more features are on the way. There are still some roles needed to be filled and lots of things needed to be done! We find their work very valuable and wishing them all the best in their journey.
One thing that is great about Startups of London is that you get to discover new businesses and meet people. To stay in the loop and understand the London Tech scene better, consider subscribing to our social media channels linked below.
Each week, we will be visiting a new startup office to meet with their team & founders. Stay tuned!