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Durban elearning startup Advantage Learn takes top honours

Durban, South African-based online education company Advantage Learn has been named the winner of the Dragons’ Den-style competition Sunday Times FNB Shark Tank.

Its founder, James Lees, will receive coaching from some of the province’s best business minds, media exposure, and bank assistance from FNB, all to the value of R150 000.

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“We appreciate the questions, we appreciate the wisdom [of the judges], as we don’t often get that. As a Durban entrepreneur, we need more of these events,” Lees said.

Read more: Don’t discount Durban when it comes to South Africa’s digital landscape

Advantage Learn seeks to become a thought-leader education, innovation and community in the country, and Africa as a whole. Through its online platform, it provides high school learners with access to quality educators, globally relevant education materials, help and support at a reasonable cost.

Advantage Learn’s first online course realised a R1-million turnover in six months, with the company achieving a 100% year-on-year revenue growth since 2013. The three to five-year goal is to reach more than 100 000 learners.

“We thought you had a very well thought-out case, and the fact that you’re in the market and that it’s been proven already is a good sign. You’ve also got a good three-year vision,” said Terry Rosenberg of Oakbrook Investments, who was one of the judges.

The judging panel further consisted of Harish Mehta, the chairman of Clearwater Capital and former CEO of Universal Print; Hixonia Nyasulu, former chairman of Sasol; Preggie Pillay of FNB; entrepreneur Merlin Stols; and Guy Brazier, the head of Deloitte in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Sunday Times FNB Shark Tank competition was conceived out of collaboration between Sunday Times’ SPICE editor Greg Ardé and FNB provincial head Preggie Pillay.

Lees’ business plan was selected from a shortlist of eight finalists, and a total of 145 entries. Other finalists include All-Store plans which offer a fully-automated storage system and Sweep-it-Up which aims to help the unemployed gain an income as private street sweepers.

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