Inspiring women: Priya Lakhani OBE

Don’t be fooled by her title, Lakhani had to reach out to investors for advice on raising funding for her new business. She says “resilience and perseverance is key"

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Name: Priya Lakhani OBE
Founded: Century Tech in 2015
Start-up elevator pitch: Century Tech is a cloud-based education platform which improves learning outcomes.
Industry: Education
Funding raised: £2.1m
Follow her: @priyalakhani

Who is Priya Lakhani?

Long-time Startups’ readers will recognise Young Gun Priya Lakhani for her success in building and scaling Masala Masala. Launched by the former libel lawyer back in 2008, the food brand specialises in fresh curry sauces and acts as a social enterprise, providing millions of free meals and thousands of free vaccinations to those in need.

Lakhani stepped down as CEO from the business in 2012 and went on to secure an OBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List, later becoming a member of the advisory board to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Now Lakhani is back and making waves in the start-up space with her latest venture; Century Tech.

Said to be the first online learning platform that learns how each student learns, Century Tech tracks interactions made on its platform using machine learning algorithms.

Motivated by a desire to help the 1.8 million children that are underperforming in UK schools, Century Tech then gathers data on each student and this is fed back to the teacher in real-time, giving them insight into each student’s progress, achievement, strengths, areas for improvement and skills.

The platform also automates routine administrative tasks for teachers, reducing their workload and giving them more time to do what they came to do – teach.

How has she won over investors?

Since founding Century Tech in 2015, Lakhani has raised £2.1m in angel investment – a process which she claims was certainly helped by the government’s SEIS and EIS schemes – and she’s now focused on taking Century to as many schools as possible.

Century was the first business Lakhani raised external investment for and, at the time, she called round to VCs to get advice on how best to get investors to take her start-up seriously.

On the back of her funding experience, Lakhani has some advice to impart to female founders seeking to raise capital:

  • “If you have a great product or service, take it to as many investors as you can. Scope them out first and ensure you’re a good fit – if they only invest in B2B, don’t pitch and expect to raise if you’re B2C. But at the same time, many of these investors can be really helpful and point you in the right direction.”
  • “Go to lots of investor events and start to look for the right type of investor in your business.”
  • “Create an amazing deck and get your elevator pitch ready.”
  • “The most important point is – keep trying. Resilience and perseverance is key.”
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