Funding for firm harnessing Artificial Intelligence to revolutionise learning

September 14, 2018
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A business using Artificial Intelligence to develop new methods of teaching and learning has received £150,000 in equity funding from the Bristol Private Equity Club.

Fluence, a member of the globally-acclaimed SETsquared business accelerator in Bristol, has also appointed Bristol Private Equity Club member Jez Williams as chairman, giving it access to his wide expertise.

The firm is working with its first client, Aston University in Birmingham, to deliver personalised Artificial Intelligence curriculum planning tools capable of optimising teaching services and automatically detecting students learning needs and act upon them.

The £150,000 capital injection from Bristol Private Equity Club is part of a £300,000 funding round at the firm, which was founded in 2016 by David and Jennifer Hore, pictured, and also has an office in Birmingham.

It will speed up development of Fluence’s product Priorities as well as helping the business expand.

Priorities helps educators detect students’ strengths and weaknesses and identifies how they can improve their performance – with minimal human input and taking the guesswork out of education planning.

It does this by reading work submitted by students then making autonomous decisions about what resources to allocate and where they need to improve.

Jennifer Hore said: “We are leveraging a completely new technology that has never been used in this way before.”

Recent issues over the use of data gathered by computers has brought the ethics of using such methods into the spotlight. 

David Hore added: “We are looking at ways that systems can be used to help people in a very positive, ethical way. We have been impressed at the fantastic, pragmatic way that Bristol Private Equity Club has considered our business.

“They have a real understanding of the nuances of such a business and what this kind of venture needs. The funding will enable us to take on more people and to get to market much more quickly.”

He said Fluence was delighted to be working with Jez Williams, co-founder of Bath-based Purple Secure Systems, which was recognised as the expert provider of high-quality and agile systems and software for national security, defence and government organisations. The firm was acquired by CACI in 2016, 10 years after it was launched.

Bristol Private Equity Club founder Jerry Barnes said: “Fluence is exactly the sort of business we like to invest in as our funds can make a real difference at this stage of its development. It is a leading-edge business in Artificial Intelligence but with a real practical focus on the products it wants to develop and a clear idea of the market it is aiming for.

“Typically, we look for businesses that need between £150,000 and £500,000 of funding in return for a significant minority stake, where our members can also add their benefit of their experience.”

Launched in 2016, Bristol Private Equity Club now has more than 70 members who offer experience as well as capital with the emphasis on backing projects in the Bristol and Bath area.

 

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