Norwegian EdTech startup Hold launches in the UK following £800,000 raise

Hold founders

Norwegian startup Hold, which has relocated to London, is launching today after raising £800,000 in Seed funding.

Backers include Founders Factory, where the startup completed a six month EdTech accelerator programme.

After launching in its native Norway in February 2016, Hold claims to have received 50,000 downloads in its first three months.

According to the company, the app has been used by 40% of higher education students in Norway, with a over 130,000 users across Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Hold recently completed a successful trial with University College London and will now roll out its app across campuses nationwide.

Maths Mathisen, co-founder and CEO explained the decision to launch in the UK: The UK is not only Europe’s centre for education but also home to many big brands, giving us the opportunity to benefit the lives of a huge number of young people. The market is more than 10 times bigger and the student body consist of 25% international students, which makes it easier to learn and adapt culture and needs across countries.

“Also, a lot of the researchers on addiction and social media are based in UK, giving us the possibility to collaborate with experts in this field.”

When asked whether he would be looking to launch elsewhere, Mathisen said “our focus is very much growing within the UK for now”, but highlighted the seeming demand for a product like his across Europe. “Watch this space,” he added.

Other investors in Hold include The Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and early-stage investor StartupLab.

Hold was co-founded by Mathisen, Florian Winder and Vinoth Vinaya, after they met at Copenhagen Business School and they were all struggling with phone distraction while studying. 

Free to download, the app rewards users for every 20 minutes they don’t check their phone while on campus. Points can then be traded for rewards such as cinema tickets, free food, drinks or Amazon gift cards.

Mathisen said: “At Hold we believe in using the best of technology to combat the worst, to help people to live more mindfully.

“Our mission is to help people have better relationships with technology and so of course there is big potential for lots of groups to benefit from Hold’s technology and so we are exploring those opportunities.”

“Whilst there are other apps out there that encourage mindfulness, no other app has the technology and big brands on board to reward students for putting down their phone, so we’re excited to launch across the UK today.”

The company monetises via a subscription model and although Mathisen said he was unable to disclose the specific value of the company’s partnerships, he did confirm it was working with brands such as Vue Entertainment – its first launch partner in the UK – Microsoft, Just Eat, Coca Cola and Planet Organic.

Speaking on the new partnership, Dominic Rowell, commercial director UK & Ireland at Vue Entertainment, said:  “Our partnership with Hold provides us with a unique insight into how a student audience interacts with the big screen experience.

“By being able to test which incentives are most appealing – in this case, discounted tickets or free popcorn – we can develop our offering and reach an audience that is notoriously adverse to the traditional methods of advertising. Furthermore, the technology that Hold has developed is very much in-line with our view of how our audience can best enjoy a film: free from the distraction of their phones.”