A Scottish education technology company that helps universities engage and recruit students has appointed a high-profile businessman to help lead further overseas expansion. 

Jeremy Cooper, former president at Hobsons – a firm that aims to help students succeed in education – has become Gecko’s non-executive chairman as it enters its next phase of growth. 

Gecko, which has offices in London and New York in addition to its Edinburgh headquarters, had a record-breaking 2020 in spite of a challenging operating environment – winning 17 new university and college clients in the UK and US. 

During the first quarter of 2021, the company signed a series of new clients including South Texas College in the US and Queens University Belfast in the UK. 

Gecko’s technology, which has already been utilised by over 10m students, enables higher education institutions, primarily universities in the UK and the US, to better engage with, recruit and enrol students.

Matthew Lanham, chief executive and founder of Gecko, said: “Every higher education institution is different, but they all face very similar challenges.  We take the time, human resources and other capacity of our customers and make it work harder, and are constantly working on solutions to the kind of problems higher education institutions face every day.”

In the wake of Covid-19, Gecko launched a series of initiatives to help the sector address challenges thrown up by the pandemic. These included launching an artificial intelligence-driven free chatbot, ResponseBot, that enabled over 60 universities to deliver automated, up to the minute information to students. 

Alongside virtual on-campus and online events, Gecko also delivered free ‘voice over internet protocol’ to customers, with uncapped calling and texting capabilities enabling limitless communications.

Lanham added: “What we’ve seen during the pandemic is that universities have stepped up digital transformation in the face of Covid, and we’ve seen our technology really come into its own over the last twelve months.  The next year will be about continual product improvements, and further expansion into North America. 

“To get someone of Jeremy’s calibre on board to help guide our growth strategy is a major coup for Gecko, and we look forward to his support in the months and years ahead. As we continue to scale the business, we are actively speaking to the venture capital community about our next phase of growth.”  

Cooper will bring extensive industry experience to the role at Gecko. In addition to his previous position as president and chief sales officer at Hobsons, he was formerly vice-president for Europe at Blackboard, the world’s largest educational technology group, and managing director at British software company RM Education.

Cooper said: “Gecko is one of the most exciting and dynamic EdTech companies in the UK, with an international mindset evidenced by the progress made in the US to date. I look forward to working with Matt and the team, who have already developed best-of-class technology, and making sure the company realises its significant potential in the UK and North American markets.”  

Gecko hired 6 people in 2020, raising its headcount to 40. The company increased its most recent investment round in 2019, a £2m funding round led by Mercia Asset Management PLC and including Scottish Investment Banks’s Co-Investment Fund. Lanham says he expects to embark on the next investment round later this year.