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London Tech Week

Edtech founded by an Afghani refugee in response to Syrian war bags £1.5M funding

Guillemette Dejean and Mursal Hedayat.

Guardian Media Group Ventures and Phil Libin’s All Turtles recently led a  £1.5M investment round to Chatterbox, an online language learning platform.

This investment is to help expand its services, assisting businesses to tap into the vast wealth of talent in refugees and marginalised communities, consequently fueling Chatterbox’s mission of connecting the world’s most talented yet marginalised people with rising opportunities in the digital economy.

Chatterbox‘s primary product is an AI-powered, award-winning online language learning platform employing marginalised people in need of work to teach their native languages. These immersive and interactive means have helped build faster real-world fluency and success in language learning programmes. This approach consequently sparked interest from the likes of the Guardian and the BBC and from leading European and Silicon Valley investors. Chatterbox has been labelled a social innovation capable of radically and permanently tipping the scales towards a more just global economy.

Influenced by adversity and driving change

Founded by Afghani refugee Mursal Hedayat MBE and Y Combinator alumna Guillemette Dejean in 2016, Chatterbox started in response to Mursal’s own mother’s struggle experience to find highly-skilled work in the UK after fleeing from Afghanistan due to the Syrian war.

It initially started as an online language learning school, helping Syrian refugees earn a living by teaching Arabic to professionals looking to improve their language skills.  It has since grown to encompass other refugee and marginalised groups, with a proven track record of increasing team cultural intelligence, morale and engagement.

Labour reports have indicated a “great resignation”, currently with tech vacancies having doubled since 2020, hitting a record 160,887 in recent months. Coupling this with an ongoing war for talent has led to hiring shortages which Chatterbox is helping solve by connecting employers with the 40 million degree-educated professionals currently living across OECD countries who are either long-term unemployed or underemployed. These are often professionals from marginalised groups, including single parents, older workers, and refugees – which have risen dramatically in recent years following successive conflicts in Middle Eastern countries and Ukraine just recently.

“As we’re seeing from the Ukrainian crisis, unfortunately, we live in a world where mass displacement of talented people from war, famine and even climate change is increasingly commonplace.” said Mursal Hedayat, Founder & CEO of Chatterbox,“ Whether it’s single parents, disabled workers or even refugees – this funding will help us further our mission of helping businesses engage with this amazing pool of marginalised talent, especially as the pandemic accelerates the shift towards globally distributed and remote-first firms.”

Investors love Chatterbox

Well known and backed, Chatterbox is an investor’s darling and one to be on the lookout for. Having come through Brent Hoberman’s Founders Factory accelerator programme, it went on to receive pre-seed investment from operators at GMG Ventures, Mustard Seed Maze, RLC Ventures, and Softbank.

“History repeats itself and has taught us that displaced people carry with them important skills for the advancement of our communities in areas such as science, health, humanities, economics, technology, and so many others. Solutions that unveil those skills, lifting displaced talent out of vulnerability, and helping companies be more innovative and inclusive, are going to win on all fronts. Chatterbox is a venture solution that lives and breathes this thesis and that is why we invested.” Antonio Miguel, Mustard Seed MAZE.

It achieved critical developmental milestones and established a renowned client roster including Unilever, FTI Consulting and the British Red Cross. Chatterbox will now use the funding to develop its ‘diversity as a service’ offered with new products and services. The remote-first startup is currently making strategic hires across product development, learning, sales and marketing, already driving its desired impact.

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