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Uptime: The YouTube founder-backed ‘knowledge hacking’ app making a move into the City

·4 min read
Uptime co-founders Jamie True, Patrick Walker, and Jack Bekhor (Uptime)
Uptime co-founders Jamie True, Patrick Walker, and Jack Bekhor (Uptime)

Have you ever had the horrible thought there isn’t enough time to learn even a fraction of what you hoped to in life?

Enter Uptime, a London-based educational app launched last year and backed by YouTube founder Chad Hurley and former Tesco CEO Terry Leahy.

The app, which has raised around £14 million to date, combines fast-working AI and human skill to create five-minute "knowledge hacks" on everything from Socrates and physics to the latest documentaries.

The hacks distill key ideas and insights from some of the world's best books and courses, and involve watching, reading and listening. Titles range from NYT bestsellers to works on how to have great sex, all condensed into five minutes.

The idea is to allow you to learn in the gaps, to make more knowledge accessible and digestible.

Uptime currently offers around 1,500 "hacks", and has clocked 150,000 downloads. Since launching a premium paid subscription offering in April it has seen 75,000 users, including 3,000 subscribers.

Beauty entrepreneur and Kardashian pal, Huda Kattan, is also an investor in the Battersea-based app, while latest fans include Lily Cole (PA)
Beauty entrepreneur and Kardashian pal, Huda Kattan, is also an investor in the Battersea-based app, while latest fans include Lily Cole (PA)

The app’s founders, serial investors Jamie True and Jack Bekhor, and former YouTube exec and BBC journalist, Patrick Walker, are now looking to expand into the corporate world.

The founders told the Standard they are currently in discussions with several FTSE 100-size firms on using the app to help quickly upskill their staff - especially on diversity and inclusion in a world where company culture is becoming increasingly important to both employees and investors.

True, a serial entrepreneur who founded his first company at 17, argues the corporate upskilling market is an "enormous commercial opportunity".

Noting research showing 50% of all UK businesses continue to have no skill development strategy in place, he said: “Part of Uptime’s business expansion is to reduce skill and knowledge gaps which create significant business risk especially for larger corporations.

“We think it’s going to be a huge success. A lot of the companies we’re speaking to are listed…. They also saying, 'if it’s in an enclosed area, can you “hack” our annual report, and all of our workshops, too, for our employees?' Nobody’s done that before. Traditional [corporate] learning and development platforms are about a tick box.”

The app’s hacks include the latest diversity and inclusion titles. Corporates are interested in parnering with Uptime because if their leaders keep up to speed with a changing world they will make better decisions, True said.

The team’s mid-term aim is for 750,000 paid users, but the eventual goal is to become a Spotify-level household name the likes of Google would choose as a partner.

True and Bekhor made millions when they sold their Work Angel Technology firm in 2016, and their dream now is to create a business that has a lasting impact in the world.

"The key thing that drove us is that we wanted to be able to do something that improved people’s lives in a meaningful way. That’s what the original genesis of Uptime was," Bekhor said.

“We all said individually to each other that the next thing we do has to be impactful and meaningful enough that a Tier 1 - a Google or an Amazon - would want to partner with us one day. That it would be at that scale," True added. "We want to get it to that level where you could affect that many people.”

The team argues Uptime is set apart from educational app competitors due to the ability of its AI-based tech to both help choose which "hacks" to create, and to more quickly sift the internet and condense the takeaways from a work into 10,000 words.

Uptime then employs remote-working expert editors to condense this into a 1,200-word hack for users to digest. A former head of TED Ed heads up the editing process.

"We know exactly what’s popping, and where people drop off... We can adjust on the fly with this format," Walker said.

Users today are mainly based in the US and UK, and skew towards men aged 18-35. The most-accessed category is mindfulness, and users complete around two "hacks" per session, spending around 10 minutes on the app.

The founders are now looking at “hacking podcasts”, too, and plan to expand into offering hacks in multiple languages.

The team tapped friends and contacts as initial investors and have raised enough cash to get them through the next stage of development. They then plan to do a bridge round or a Series A early next year, which will likely be open to new investors.

“We do always say ‘this is the big one’”, True said. “There are so many things about to come into the pipeline that we’re building to take it to the next level.”

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