BOLT Learning, the online training company, is embarking on a major expansion, with plans to raise up to £4m in funding.

The Paisley-based business will grow revenue to just less than £1 million in the year to April, up from £600,000 last year, and commercial director Tom Fender said it planned to grow at up to 50 per cent per year for the next three years.

Its expansion will be helped by the recent addition of a translation tool to its software, which will boost its prospects for growth overseas. An existing wholesale client has signed up to use the tool.

The company is also close to embarking on its next funding round, which Mr Fender said would accelerate growth.

“We’ve engaged with an organisation who will put together out pitch and go to the money markets,” said Mr Fender, who said his preference would be to get high net-worth individuals involved.

The firm was founded in 2014 by Tamlin Roberts and quickly built a reputation developing e-learning modules for the construction sector, including the use of virtual reality. This allowed workers to complete health and safety training without the danger of being on site.

In January 2017, Mr Fender, a seed funder in the business, increased his stake and joined on a full-time basis to create a commercial team.

“It has an excellent production and development team in Paisley and Edinburgh but we hadn’t developed a commercial team,” he said.

This element of the business has been built in London, with four staff now based in shared working centre.

Mr Fender’s second move was to approach his industry contacts across the retail and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sectors and present the business case for e-learning and Bolt.

“It was met very positively,” he said. “The retail sector in convenience and wholesale, most of them recognise that they have underinvested in learning and development and they didn’t particularly have advanced digital platforms to administer that.”

A number of these businesses have since signed up with Bolt. These include McColl’s, with its 22,500 employees, the Today’s Group, Lifestyle Express and Parfetts.

“Businesses often think they should target the big boys first, but in my experience the big boys are very slow moving, they’ve got so many hoops to go through before making a decision,” said Mr Fender. “Work with really successful, small business which are more entrepreneurial, far quicker decision makers, far more focussed on developing their people, and then let word of mouth do its job.”

The company is now working with a number of FMCG suppliers such as JTI, Weetabix and Nestle.

“We’re working in many different vertical sectors, still doing a lot of work in construction but with adding FMCG, retail, food manufactures in 2017 and 2018, and these are the sectors we want to consolidate and grow our presence in,” said Mr Fender.

He highlights that while 370,000 people work in the convenience sector, about 100,000 churn every year.

“That is a huge amount, and the sector doesn’t have a particularly good reputation in terms of deducting and developing people because there’s a fear they will move on quickly,” he said.

“E-learning means people can do the training wherever they want, whenever they, on whatever device,” he said. “What we’ve found is that once they’ve done one module digitally, they crack on because it gave the appetite. They want to see how they are progressing, they want to achieve something.”

There are 21 staff at the company now, and Mr Fender said this was likely to grow this year, but added that the sweet spot was to grow turnover and profitability at a far greater percentage that staff numbers.

“I think the business is very scaleable so we will add two or three, but the way we plan to grow the business doesn’t require a huge amount of people. We let the technology do the hard work.”