Startup Jolt raises $14.1m to disrupt MBA education market

By Lucy Ingham

Startup Jolt has today announced that it has raised $14.1m in a Series A funding round to further its efforts to disrupt higher education.

The round, which was led by Balderton Capital with additional investment from Hillsven Capital and Octopus Ventures, brings the total raised by the startup to $23.3m.

Jolt is taking on the MBA market by offering pay-monthly education under its Not An MBA (NAMBA) programme. This is designed to be flexible and far more affordable than traditional MBAs, and is targeted at young professionals looking to grow their skillsets to advance their careers or launch startups.

Instead of opting for video-based online education, Jolt integrates its “futuristic classrooms” into co-working spaces, providing video and app-based training and lectures outside traditional working hours led by leading lecturers from across the world. This includes leaders from major technology companies, including Google, Netflix and Tesla.

At present Jolt NAMBAs are offered at seven locations in Tel-Aviv, where the startup was founded in 2015, and two in London. There are also plans to launch in the US later this year.

Can startup Jolt disrupt higher education?

Costing £175 a month in the UK, the course enables students to complete only the modules they want, or earn a complete NAMBA for £4,500. This compares favourably to traditional MBAs, which cost an average of £30,000 in the UK.

While it is not the first company to take on the higher education market, its focus on blending physical and digital offerings is novel, as is its choice to integrate into cities’ existing startup ecosystems by establishing in co-working spaces.

The pay-monthly approach, which makes the course accessible to a far wider pool of potential students, is also drawing attention – and is something that Jolt believes gives it unique appeal.

“Higher education is in a bubble in which a staggering $2.3tn is invested every year in something that works for a small minority of people,” said Jolt CEO Roei Deutsch.

“Data shows more than three quarters of graduates believe many higher education programs are no longer fit for purpose; trust and confidence in academia has nosedived in recent years, and the number of applications for MBA courses across most major establishments has fallen.

“Society is clearly ready for an alternative – an alternative that will happen, with or without us.”

Its novel approach, which also enables students to pause their education when needed, has also been a key driver in attracting investment.

“There is a rapidly increasing demand from both employees and employers for more adaptive forms of professional education,” said James Wise, Partner, Balderton Capital.

“Jolt combines a powerful tech platform with a deep understanding of how people really learn to fulfil this demand, giving the learner complete control over when, what and with whom they study. We believe Jolt has the potential to help tens of millions of students, who couldn’t otherwise afford the time or cost of a traditional business school, to gain new skills and meet new people.”

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