Women In Innovation Success Stories: Reedah El-Saie, Brainspark Games, London
Making Learning fun with curriculum-aligned 3D immersive educational gaming
We all know how much children love games, especially games you can play on a screen. So why not use this to make learning more fun? That’s the premise of multi-award winning EdTech startup, Brainspark Games, which is developing an ‘eduverse’ of culturally nuanced, 3D immersive educational mobile games aligned with the UK national curriculum.
Founder Reedah El-Saie had already achieved a degree of success when she applied for Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Programme. She and her small team had released their ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP), achieving 3,500 downloads, and won a £35,000 Innovate UK ‘Audience of The Future’ grant for their climate game. Having been featured by UK Tech News as one of ‘London’s Most diverse Tech Startups’, they were also selected by Creative Industries Council as one of the ‘100 Ones to Watch’ most exciting creative startups.
But Reedah says that they were “massively under-resourced”, with no revenue, no mentors and no experience of growing an edtech gaming startup. As a non-technical founder, she lacked confidence and was not familiar with the investment raising landscape.
More grant funding, first sales and a growing team
All of that has changed during her time on the programme. In the last year, Brainspark Games UK has won £555,000 in grant funding and secured revenue for their local authority contract as well as a pre-order for 40 school subscriptions. Not only that but they have partnered with a further 6 Local Authorities, 38 schools and 5 Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools, and they are expanding their reach into juvenile secure centres.
A bundle of 5 games is now in production, and downloads globally have reached almost 71,000. The team has grown too, with 7 permanent UK staff being recruited and another 10 on the freelance team, and they have recently signed a lease for a 20 person office to accommodate expected future growth.
The team has also received a number of accolades, being selected for HolonIQ ‘Europe’s top 200 EdTech startups, finalist for Barclays Entrepreneur of the Year – Games Awards, shortlisted for the AWEXR Climate Education Prize, ASU+GSV Elite 200 world’s most innovative EdTech startups, and being nominated for ‘Best Social Impact Game’ for the Unity Awards.
Reedah herself has also secured a number of speaking engagements at events including London Tech Week, World EdTech Forum, Festival of Education and the ASU+GSV Summit ‘Future of Learning: Metaverse, Web3 & Educational Mobile Games’ in San Diego.
Perhaps most importantly though, she is that much more confident in herself and her fast growing business. “I have enhanced self belief and feel bold and excited about the future,” she says. “There will be challenges but I have learnt to embrace the discomfort that comes with being a founder and I am just focused on driving the plan forward.”
Being part of a tribe and building confidence
A big part of her growing confidence has come from the people Reedah has met through the Women in Innovation Programme. The coaching and mentoring provided by her Innovate UK EDGE Innovation & Growth Specialist and her Senior Business Mentor not only gave her support, advice and a sounding board whenever she needed it, it also guided her through the challenges of recruiting and retaining staff as well as preparing to raise funding through grants and investment during an economic downturn.
“More than anything they believed in me and Brainspark,” she says. “They went above and beyond to promote me and my startup, inviting me to speak and inspire others, championing me at every opportunity, becoming lifelong friends.”
“Meeting ‘my tribe’ was really inspiring,” she adds. “A community of like-minded focused women – driving their businesses forward but utterly collaborative and supportive of one another – has been a deeply enriching experience. There was something really magical when we met at Bootcamp and shared our personal stories in a way that just isn’t possible on Zoom.”
Over the next year, Reedah has big plans, including securing £1.5 million in grants and investments, growing the team, and releasing and commercialising Brainspark’s bundle of 5 games, reaching 100,000 downloads and generating £100,000+ in revenue.
“The Women in Innovation Programme is a game changer,” she says to those thinking of applying to similar Innovate UK funding opportunities. “It will transform you and your business and enable you to create an outward looking, global ‘can do’ approach to growth and expansion.”