Zero Gravity is a social mobility tech platform that mentors talented students from low-income backgrounds into top universities and careers.
Zero Gravity uses algorithms to talent-spot students from low-income backgrounds whilst they’re still at school, with 20% of state schools in the UK signed up to the platform. Eligible students then have access to weekly mentoring sessions, content masterclasses and a community of likeminded students – all through the Zero Gravity platform. Once students have broken into a leading university, the platform mentors students into a number of FTSE100 companies that have partnered with Zero Gravity to recruit socially mobile talent.
So far, Zero Gravity has supported 3,000+ low-income students into the UK’s leading universities, including 400+ into Oxbridge – breaking all previous records. Zero Gravity is now also placing hundreds of students into internships at companies like HSBC and KPMG. The company has also received $5m of impact investment from Europe’s leading tech investors to scale Zero Gravity to support 20,000+ students into top universities and careers each year.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I founded Zero Gravity to revolutionise access to top universities and careers for young people, like me, from low-income areas of the country. While talent is spread evenly, opportunity is not, and I wanted to change that.
I grew up in a single-parent family in a small town in West Yorkshire and made my way from a state school to Oxford University. I saw first-hand on this journey just how difficult it is for students like me to break into elite institutions. Sometimes it felt like your background would always hold you down – almost like gravity.
As a member of the social media generation, I’d seen platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram transform how people connect. After all, my own journey to university was only made possible by following those one step ahead of me on YouTube. However, whilst social media platforms have democratised access to information, they can’t offer the inside track; access to mentorship, funding, personalised content, and work experience.
Noticing this gap, when I graduated from Oxford, I decided to do something about it. I launched Zero Gravity from my bedroom with the final £200 of my student loan and bootstrapped the business for the first nine months. Self-taught coding skills enabled me to create a minimum viable product which algorithmically identified talented students from low-income backgrounds and then connected them with mentors to propel them into top universities. Within months, the university offers started flowing, creating the impetus for me to transform my bedroom startup into a proper business!
Zero Gravity has now mentored over 3,000 students from low-income backgrounds into the UK’s leading universities, including over 400 into Oxbridge – breaking all previous records. This year we’re on track to mentor an additional 5,000 low-income students into leading institutions.
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How has the company evolved in the last few years?
Over the past three years, Zero Gravity has grown from a student bedroom startup into one of the UK’s fastest-growing ed-tech companies. This year, I was named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list – something that would’ve seemed impossible only three years ago
We’re now operating at such a large scale that we’re reshaping the student demographics of many UK universities. Our data shows that 1 in every 4 low-income students who win a place at Oxbridge now do so via the Zero Gravity platform. The number of state-educated students at Oxbridge has also increased from 57% to 67% since our launch. This is the real, tangible change that Zero Gravity is creating, and we expect our platform to start radically changing the student demographics at all the top UK universities.
But the mentoring doesn’t just stop at university. Zero Gravity has partnered with leading employers such as HSBC, KPMG, and Fidelity to extend our platform to connect undergraduates with mentors at leading employers, alongside masterclasses delivered by experts from top firms. Our employer partners are hiring hundreds of Zero Gravity students for their internships and graduate schemes, tapping into a new talent base and diversifying their workforce. We’re unleashing individual potential and providing employers with unparalleled access to fantastic talent.
As the platform has grown, the shape of our company has also transformed. We’re now a team of over 20 people working out of a dedicated office in St Paul’s and received financial support from Amazon, Google, and Facebook to further develop the tech platform.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
My vision is to create a ‘one platform, one journey’ experience that propels students into university, work, and life.
In the same way that we have disrupted access to elite universities, I believe Zero Gravity will radically level the playing field in access to leading employers. What we will see is the constitution of these employers rapidly transform, with talent from previously neglected schools, geographies, and socioeconomic backgrounds beginning to gain a foothold.
This change is exciting because the knock-on effect of having a socially mobile workforce within these firms will be to drive a broader cultural shift that enables all talent to be utilised and more diverse thinking. BCG estimate that just increasing social mobility to Scandinavian levels will boost UK GDP by £140bn by 2050. We have the answer to the UK’s productivity gap right in front of us.
Global expansion is something we would like to explore, too. When we’ve proven that Zero Gravity can scale to a level where it is reshaping UK universities and leading graduate employers, why couldn’t we scale the platform to replicate this in other countries? Every developed economy has a social mobility problem that governments have tried and failed to address, and we have a ready-made solution.
The vision is to become a global talent platform that ensures that wherever you are and whatever your background, you are given the tools to unleash your potential.