Austen Smart knew a thing or two about decks. DJ decks, that is. When he wanted to raise funds for his start-up aimed at transforming the music curriculum in schools, it was another set of decks he became skilled in.
Austen and brother Scott set up FutureDJs in 2016 after exam boards decided to officially recognise DJ decks as instruments – just like the piano, violin or guitar. With DJ-ing now on the National Curriculum and a potential part of GCSE music, they found that most teachers lacked the skills, resources and experience to teach it.
FutureDJs offers a service to bridge that gap, with a fresh and exciting study programme.
And wanting to scale his business by raising investment through an equity crowdfunding campaign, the brothers turned to Virgin StartUp’s CrowdBoost Accelerator programme in 2018.
They haven’t looked back since, raising £327,000 from almost 200 investors – way above their initial £175,000 target.
Austen says he and Scott can’t praise the programme enough for equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to attract the right investment and set them on their way.
He said: “We were really pleased the way it all went. It allowed us to hire key people, get our operations properly underway and make sure our products were embedded.
“We’ve since seen our revenue grow about 350% year-on-year, we now have 12 people in our team, we have 50 tutors working across the country and we’ve multiplied our student numbers by 10 times.
“We learned a lot from the CrowdBoost programme. So much so, that when I recently did an Accelerator programme with some seriously established and exciting businesses, I was very surprised at the amount of people who didn’t know about raising investment and about equity.
“I still reference CrowdBoost to people today when I discuss raising money with people. Things like the power of speaking to everyone who could be an investor and the importance of a mission statement – ours came out of CrowdBoost and has been invaluable to us.
“Learning about how to develop a strong pitch deck was really good, too. I have so many people coming up to me now, asking me to help them with their decks - we could probably set up another business! It also gave us the confidence to say the right things in front of investors.
“Importantly, all of it was underpinned by logic.
“When going through our latest investment round I did sometimes wish I was doing it with CrowdBoost at my side again, as the support was great.”
With the money raised through crowdfunding and the subsequent success, the duo has been able to rebrand the business and set themselves up for a £1m investment round, which has seen key strategic investors come on board and has opened up a partnership with Soundtrap: a Spotify-owned company.
Their next step is to move into home learning, offering the first DJ/Music Production virtual learning environment for students with fully accredited, live and interactive sessions.
Our CrowdBoost programme regularly opens up for applications. Find out more about when it could help you to successfully crowdfund your business.