Irish edtech firm picks Cape Town for expansion

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Third from left: Irish Ambassador to SA Fionnuala Gilsenan, next to her is Irish government minister, Heather Humphreys, and Shaw Academy CEO James Egan in the navy suit.
Third from left: Irish Ambassador to SA Fionnuala Gilsenan, next to her is Irish government minister, Heather Humphreys, and Shaw Academy CEO James Egan in the navy suit.

Irish online educational company Shaw Academy has opened its new office in the City of Cape Town, choosing SA as part of its global expansion.

This as the country sees increased interest from Irish companies, following a trade mission visit from the Irish delegation earlier this month in pursuit of ICT dealswith South African organisations.

John White, chief strategy officer with Shaw Academy, says the decision to open an office in Cape Town is due to the nature of the organisation’s business.

“We are a global online educational company with users around the world. Cape Town’s location offers favourable time zones for the many markets we have a presence in and would allow our student support team that is now located in Cape Town to assist thousands of our students.”

In a statement, Shaw Academy CEO James Egan highlights: “Strategically and operationally, South Africa was a simple decision for us to make. Our global footprint ensures student support can be favourably operated in this market and this is reflective by the high-performing teams we already have in place. Our decision was further enhanced by the calibre of educational professionals we met and now employ, and our plan is to continue to add to both divisions as we move forward.”

With offices in Bangalore, India and now Cape Town, the Dublin-headquartered organisation develops online educational courses focused on building practical skills.

Furthermore, the online courses allow users to ask questions and receive answers while attending webinars, and they also get to interact in real-time with fellow classmates.

A typical course with the education tech start-up is for a period of four months, during which a user gains grounding in an area where they can develop practical skills, according to White.

“The type of user that takes Shaw Academy courses is someone who is looking to gain skills quickly and move on with their lives. For example, we have people taking courses to enhance their career, enter a new industry, start their own business or simply learn a new hobby.”

Speaking about the courses offered by the academy, White indicates these are popular professional-oriented subjects, including marketing, design, business and tech courses, and a range of lifestyle subjects, including nutrition, photography, and health and fitness.

Globally, the Irish firm says it employs over 100 staff. In its Cape Town office, the company has already hired 25 people in fulltime roles, with the overall goal to employ over 40 staff.

These people will focus on developing educational content along with providing student support to hundreds of thousands of users across multiple global markets.Its content is developed in-house and hosted on its own proprietary platform.

The Shaw Academy is going through “an explosive growth phase”, with over five million users globally, and the South African operation is an integral part of further growth, reveals White.

According to the company, it acquires over 300 000 new users globally every month.

White notes: “South Africa is an important market to Shaw Academy, with close to one million registered users. The impact of the Cape Town office and Shaw Academy’s continued growth globally will see us acquire close to nine million students globally by the close of 2019.”

“This is an exciting phase in our growth and we are very excited that our South African operation will be at the forefront of Shaw Academy’s continued expansion and success to offer high-quality education at low cost,” concludes Egan in the statement.

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