Making it Work

Examfly looks to double its headcount as training business continues to grow

The Dublin-based company offers online training for notoriously hard-to-pass professional services firms

Deirdre Lyons: ‘I’d always had an interest in technology and the science of learning’. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Examfly, a Dublin-based start-up, plans to double its staff from five to 10 over the next two years as it targets expansion into the UK and other international markets.

Examfly was founded by Deirdre Lyons, originally from Ballingarry, Co. Limerick, in 2019. The business provides online training for professional services exams, such as accounting and tax. It has five staff and has raised €2 million in funding.

“It’s an interactive learning platform designed to help people achieve qualifications quicker. I studied law in college and trained in tax in PwC before working in Davy. As a result I had to sit a number of exams in the course of my professional career,” Lyons told the Business Post.

“I lectured for the Irish Tax Institute for a number of years and I saw, first-hand, the pain points for students. I’d always had an interest in technology and the science of learning. Combined with an itch to start my own business, this seemed an area where I could address the pain points.”

With some professional exams having failure rates of 50 per cent, Lyons felt that helping to reduce this would make the service appealing to professional services companies. She went through New Frontiers programme with Enterprise Ireland to develop the first product.

Fact File

Founded by: Deirdre Lyons in 2019

Staff: 5

Funding: €2 million

From there Examfly secured Chartered Accountants Ireland as its first customer and subsequently received support from the Competitive Start Fund at Enterprise Ireland.

“That allowed us to improve the product and secure more customers. We have some of the biggest professional services firms in Ireland as clients now. When the business started, it was all about testing the hypothesis against reality. I found that what we were doing at Examfly seemed to be solving the problem,” Lyons said.

The switch from working for a business to leading one was one that Lyons has found fascinating.

“It’s a challenging endeavour to found a start-up but I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of it. I enjoy having the ability to translate ideas into reality and the variety of the challenges [involved]. It’s tough, but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”

She said that Enterprise Ireland’s support to the business had played an important role in aiding Examfly’s rapid growth.

“We’ve availed of Enterprise Ireland supports at every stage of the business. It’s not just the investment. They’ve provided a lot of good advice and training under the HPSU [high potential start-up] programme,” Lyons said.

“Now, as we focus on international expansion, they are helping us. We couldn’t have done it without their involvement.”

The business secured its first client in the UK last year and that is where Lyons expects most of the near-term growth to come from.

“The key priorities now are growing market share and revenue. There’s also an opportunity to develop the platform more, to improve the efficacy of the platform,” she said.

“We want to replicate our market success in Ireland in the UK. If we do that, we’ll be on our way to becoming the global learning partner of the professional services, which will allow us to look at other markets like the US or move into servicing other professional services.”