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Atom Learning co-founder on bootstrapping, early hires and climate tech – Fi5

atom learning founder
atom learning founder

Alex Hatvany is the co-founder of Atom Learning, an edtech company that uses AI to create gamified exercises that are bespoke to an individual child’s learning style and level.

The online learning platform is aimed at Key Stage 2 through to senior school entry preparation. More than 25,000 pupils study with Atom’s platform, which uses machine learning to adapt questions to specific learning levels and data analytics to provide feedback to teachers.

The London-based company raised $25m from Japanese investment giant SoftBank back in 2021. Previously it had been profitable and bootstrapped after it was founded by Hatvany and Jake O’Keeffe in 2018.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Hatvany reveals who he admires most in the edtech industry, why he’s excited about climate tech and why shouldn’t fundraise “unless you can help it”.

1. Who was the most important early hire you made?

Alex Hatvany: Our CTO, Tim, was definitely our most important early hire. Not only did he bring the technical skills we needed to grow the business, but he also really bought into our vision for the company. Because he joined early on and had that passion for what we were working to build, he became a pivotal part of the founding team. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

2. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?

AH: Don’t fundraise if you can help it – wait until it’s on your terms and you really know why you’re raising. Raising can be a distraction early on, so focus on finding product market fit instead. This means you’ll zero in on creating a product that truly adds value and that people want to buy.

We bootstrapped Atom for years before taking our first institutional funding in 2021. This meant we were in a far stronger position going into those investor conversations; we had clarified what we needed to reach the next level of growth and knew how we were going to get there.

3. Who’s a leader you admire in your industry?

AH: I really admire Mark Roberge who was the first head of sales at Hubspot. He’s now a lecturer at Harvard Business School. He’s literally written the book on sales.

4. What nascent technology holds the most promise?

AH: There’s loads to get excited about in the climate tech space. As someone who’s building a software-led business, I find some of the hardware solutions being built to tackle climate change mind-blowing. They give me a lot of hope that a more sustainable future is possible.

5. In another life you’d be?

AH: I’d probably still want to start a company! I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug, so I’m sure if I wasn’t running Atom Learning, that entrepreneurial instinct would have found a way to the fore somehow!

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.