Where are they now? Titus Learning

Seb Francis, co-founder of Titus Learning, speaking into a microphone. A screen in the background reads "Do The Right Thing Award"
Titus Learning
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
20 March 2024

Virgin StartUp launched back in 2013 – for the full story of why, check out Richard Branson’s blog . Since then, it has supported some incredible founders to grow amazing businesses. In celebration of Virgin StartUp’s 10th anniversary, we’re catching up with some of the founders who received support in the early days to learn about their start-up journey. First up, Seb Francis, co-founder of Titus Learning…

What’s Titus Learning’s 30-second elevator pitch?

Titus is an award-winning, B Corp certified, e-learning provider. As one of the top global Moodle and Totara partners, we provide Learning Management Systems to the likes of CNN, Network Rail, Superdry, Dermalogica, and plenty more, enabling them to upskill and develop their stakeholders via our online platform.

Why did you choose Virgin StartUp and how did you use your Start Up Loan to make a difference in the world?

The initial choice to work with Virgin StartUp was about more than just the money, it was also the support, community, mentoring opportunities, and the fact that our plans had to be vetted by experts in the field of start-ups and established businesses. While we were confident in our plans, this process gave us further confidence and challenged our thinking around our initial business plan.

The Titus Learning team
Titus Learning

As our business is quite people-focused, the initial funding allowed us to get the Titus name out there, focus on sales/marketing, and create a team of freelancers. However, £10k doesn't go that far and so we quickly moved to being funded by our customer acqusition. We haven't taken on any equity funding since founding, and we're over the moon with our growth since then. Not only have we grown a business with more than 40 employees and £5m+ revenue, but we've embraced 'profit with a purpose' and have this running through our culture, people, and customers.

Our services have enabled millions of people from around the world to develop their own skills and help their wider network, including surgeons using our platform to combat COVID-19 through to charities in Africa supporting underprivileged communities with their schooling. And this is just the beginning…

If your start-up journey had a theme song, what would it be?

Ignoring the verses that refer to drug dealing, it would have to be Hustlin' by Rick Ross. The chorus is “Every day I'm hustlin’” pretty much on repeat. I think this sums up what needs to be done, particularly in the early days, when running a business. Of course, people often say “work smart, not hard”, there really is no substitute for hard work and putting in the hustle. That should be 'smart' work but founders need to put in the hours to get the results.

The truth is you need a great team to move you towards your goals

If you could do one thing differently, what would you change?

Looking back to the earlier days, I think we could have hired much faster than we did. As a company that didn't raise a significant amount of money, cashflow was tight but once we started recruiting we saw the growth come through. We thought we could do it all ourselves and save the money, but the truth is you need a great team to move you towards your goals.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken with the business?

While it might not sound like a risk, some of the investments we made into our people (Investors in People, L&D strategies, HR team, etc) were made much earlier than a lot of people recommended. They thought it wasn't necessary at our stage of growth, and felt like it was a waste of money that could have otherwise gone towards sales and marketing. We saw the opposite effect and have had amazing employee satisfaction and retention since day one. This has built a really close-knit team and retained some invaluable internal knowledge.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a business now?

If I'd been asked this several years ago, I would've talked about ensuring the planning stage isn't rushed or perhaps thoroughly stress testing what you think your USP is. While I still stand by all of these points, I feel it's far more important that founders are truly bought into the purpose of their business and what is their ‘why’. Dedication, hustle, and consistency can take you a long way but eventually, even with a lot of success, these can start to tire. However, if you have a purpose you truly believe in, the energy it can give you feels limitless.

Inspired to launch your own business? Visit Virgin StartUp for Start Up Loans, advice, supporting, mentoring and more.