Texthelp spells edtech success

Northern Ireland-based Texthelp is in business to provide literacy support software for reading, writing and language learning in classrooms worldwide. Its record helping millions to overcome everyday reading and writing challenges is what earned it an Impact Award for education in March. Group head of marketing Emily Paul talks to Shivvy Jervis.

Scaling is hard for any digital business. Scaling for good is especially hard, because of the additional factors in play around purpose.

Northern Ireland-founded edtech business Texthelp looks to be on its way. Its literacy support software now helps more than 8.5m people worldwide. Its most popular tool, Read and Write, has helped 3.5m schoolchildren struggling with English because of dyslexia or as a second language.

In business for an impressive 20 years, Texthelp is able to build in part as a result of partnerships with the likes of Google and Microsoft, as well as with major educational publishers, to provide bespoke literacy support.

It is also able to scale because it works across sectors, and beyond the classroom, explains group head of marketing Emily Paul. “We develop software that is used in both in education and also in the corporate sector,” she says. “So that could be healthcare, it could be government, local government, and also the private sector as well.”

Workplace growth is especially important, says Paul – with an agenda that goes beyond just learning. “In the corporate space we see people wanting to improve their workplace efficiency and productivity, and looking at digital inclusion of their workforces and embracing diversity in the workplace on the education side.”

All Texthelp tools are designed to increase student confidence, improve exam results and drive attainment. “The software is really for people to improve their communication, understanding and also essentially reading and writing.”

And, says Paul, maths will soon be on the Texthelp subject list too.

Changes in technology are helping broaden the Texthelp offer too. “Children are learning analytics and artificial intelligence. A key challenge will be how we can use that within the classroom to improve student outcomes.”

Texthelp has been able to grow through the twin advantages of steady revenues from software, alongside backing from Delta Partners.

Good times with good growth, then. What’s the really big challenge that lies ahead for the business? One is definitely access to the big education markets, notably India, where markets tend to be more closed.

But Paul is sure language is the main obstacle. “One of the things we are looking at as quite a big opportunity is how we might apply this for other people that aren’t English speaking. At the moment we’re focussed on English speaking markets and how to improve English literacy.

“But actually there’s a lot of applicability in other countries as well, so the Middle East, Africa, India – big populations that would require additional help and support in communication,” she says.

Video produced by Joe Madden at Paradigm Creative