Frntline, a Melbourne-founded startup backed by Beyoncé's father Dr Mathew Knowles PhD, has raised $4.6 million for an international roll-out of its 'TikTok style' educational videos for customer service aimed at Gen Z workers in the retail, hospitality and pharmacy sectors.
Launched in 2021 by serial entrepreneur and founder Mark John, frntline has seen early success in securing high-profile national and international clients such as Coles, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, Swisse, Mumm Champagne and Bondi Sands.
The seed round was led by early-stage technology venture capital fund RealVC, linked to Unlocked founder Matt Berriman, with other investors including Investible and Hoperidge Capital, the family office of Navitas founder Rod Jones.
Drawing on his decades of global experience working across entertainment and video content along with his passion for youth education and mentorship, John set up the company with the 15-25 age demographic in mind, developing the proprietary frntlne Interactive Learning Methodology (FILM).
Completion rates for FILM are tracking at close to 100 per cent, compared to overall very low rates for online training and education courses more broadly in these sectors.
Funds raised will go towards building out frntline's marketing, sales and product development as the startup grows its presence in Australia and expands into several international markets.
"Frntlne was built off the back of my own experience at a retail outlet, ready to spend hundreds of dollars on a DIY home maintenance product only to be faced with several in-store staff who not only had no product knowledge but appeared to be disengaged and happy for me to take my money elsewhere, even suggesting I should go to their competitor," says John, the frntlne CEO.
"While frustrated at the experience, I saw a great opportunity to use my years of working across entertainment, tech and monetised content to create a practical and highly engaging solution backed by scientific research."
John says the company is changing the way retailers and consumer brands deliver their product training.
"Having bootstrapped the business to this point; I am excited for the next phase of frntlne and the opportunity that this funding round will bring in accelerating our product development, the growth of our team and expansion into key international markets including Singapore, the UK and UAE," John explains.
"We are working with a strong group of investors and advisors who have global experience across education, entertainment and technology startups and who truly believe in the potential of our business.
"Most of our clients have been with us for some time including Bondi Sands, who was our first customer back in 2021 when we were still testing the product. We’re really excited to keep building out our client base and taking some of our existing Australian customers global."
The founder clarifies the 15-25 age demographic was chosen because the core demographic in retail and hospitality frontline staff usually skews younger.
"However we know from recent client campaigns that our product is delivering amazing results with a broad range of ages and there is no limit to its application," he says.
The company's advisory board includes education expert Dr David Isaacson PhD, who has been instrumental in working with Mark and the team to develop FILM, as well as Dr Mathew Knowles PhD, the architect behind the careers of his daughters Beyoncé and Solange, as well as supergroup Destiny's Child.
Matt Berriman of RealVC says despite the funding challenges in the market recently, he believes now more than ever is the time to get behind great founders who are embracing technology to not only disrupt global industries, but do so in a way that creates positive change in people's lives.
"At RealVC we are committed to backing exceptional founders with passion, talent and the capability to execute, and Mark John hits all these markers," Berriman says.
"The frntlne business model is set up to deliver quality education, which is critical to ensure our current and future generations have the best possible chance of success, both at work and in life.
"From an investment perspective, the business presents a compelling business model, with strong unit economics and has a huge total addressable market they are targeting, both in Australia and overseas, and we can see frntlne being a great Australian success story in years to come."
Investible principal Jayden Basha says the frntline founder has built a novel, scalable model that has a broad application to frontline workers irrespective of industry or geography.
"The company has earned high praises from their early customers. This opportunity really excites us and we look forward to supporting frntlne’s next phase," he says.
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