Tiney raises £7.2m to fix the childcare crisis

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Tech-enabled childcare startup, tiney.co, set up by the founder of Teach First, has raised a £7.2m ($9m) Series A round led by Mustard Seed Partners and joined by PortfoLion, Sparkmind, and Rubio.

Tiney recruits, trains, and supports ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ to retrain as childminders and open childcare settings at home; helping to meet the acute demand for affordable, high-quality early years education across England.

Nearly half of parents in England have reported borrowing money or using savings to cover childcare costs in the last year. Faced with escalating fees, 1 in 10 mothers have exited the workforce. At the same time, nursery closures increased by 50% in 2023, as providers struggle to cover their own costs. The team behind tiney believes reinvigorating the childminding market could solve this crisis.

Thanks to the comparatively low overheads involved in running a childminding setting, tiney childminders are able to offer the highest-quality early years care at an affordable rate for parents (childminding is 15% cheaper than nursery, on average). And, at the same time, also run a successful business. Early years professionals registered with tiney earn 17% more than those registered directly with Ofsted, on average, with most earning at least the equivalent of a  teacher’s income.

Founded in 2019 by Teach First founder Brett Wigdortz OBE, Graze co-founder Edd Read, and design entrepreneur John Newbold, tiney has rapidly grown to become the largest childminder agency in England. With over 1,000 childminders registered and hundreds more currently in training, the tiney community currently provides early years education to more than 5,400 children across England. This makes the company the equivalent of the 7th largest nursery chain in the country.

Since launch, tiney has recruited a new generation of diverse talent into the childcare sector. In 2023, 42% of tiney’s recruits came from non-education related backgrounds, including law, dentistry, retail, design, and finance. Tiney was responsible for recruiting more than 40% of all new childminders in England in the second half of 2023.

With loneliness and a perception that childminding is a low-status profession being commonly cited reasons for childminders leaving the sector, tiney has designed tech-led support structures which foster community and an app which eliminates the administrative burdens of running a childcare business. This includes processing invoices, handling taxes, and ensuring they remain compliant with Ofsted regulation. Childminders can also access marketing support, business advice, lesson plans, peer support, and advice from the tiney team, all through the app. Parents are also able to book childcare, make payments, and monitor their child’s development through the tech.

Brett Wigdortz, CEO of tiney and founder of TeachFirst, comments: “The first years of a child’s development are absolutely crucial for shaping their long-term educational trajectory. Early years educators play an enormous role in this, but astronomical costs and provider shortages have robbed too many families of access to high quality care.

“That’s why we’re working to reverse the decline in childminder numbers – the most affordable form of childcare – and champion those who want to pursue a hugely rewarding role. Our success is proof that there’s a huge appetite for careers in early years when the right support is on offer. We’re finding the next generation of childminders and securing the futures of the next generation of children.”

This raise brings tiney’s total funding to date to £19m. With this new funding, tiney wants to cement its position as the largest recruiter of childminders nationwide, reverse the nationwide decline in childminding numbers, and offer more parents across the country affordable, local care in a home-from-home environment.

Stanislas de Joussineau, Co-Managing Partner at Mustard Seed Partners comments: “Solving the childcare crisis will have huge benefits for the next generation, as well as the wider economy. We believe that tiney is already demonstrating the impact that cutting-edge technology combined with a passion to improve early years can have. They are single-handedly driving up childminder numbers across England and attracting a whole new cohort of talent into the early years space. We’re looking forward to partnering with them as they continue to scale.”