Venture capitalists get with the program

Technology Venture Partners has invested $3 million in education technology supplier Impaq Network Services following a surge in similar investments in the US. The venture capitalist will also take a position on Impaq's board as independent director.

"We think the education sector is a laggard in taking up technology," Philip Wing, executive director of TVP, said. "The sector hasn't used technology and knowledge as heavily as other industries."

Wing said venture capital companies in the US had invested "a lot" in the education sector in the last six months. "It's a big latent market for investors in the US - we also feel the same here," he said.

For Melbourne-based Impaq Network Services, the $3 million investment from TVP represents its first professional funding. The three-year-old organisation was originally funded inhouse during its research and development stage and TVP only came on board six months ago, said Robert Smyth, Impaq's CEO.

Impaq plans to use the $3 million to expand nationwide, starting in Sydney and moving to Perth, Smyth said. Additionally, the company is considering a number of acquisitions, including hardware and software vendors and technology and service providers.

The organisation already supplies more than 25 per cent of private, independent and catholic schools in Melbourne and announced today that Sydney's Abbotsleigh School for Girls will also implement its solution.

Impaq develops, installs and supports virtual private networks enabling students, staff and parents to access the school's curriculum remotely. The solutions are based on thin client technology built around an intranet framework, according to Smyth. Priced at $19,990 for installation plus a $29.95 monthly fee for staff and students, Smyth said the solution is aimed at the private sector rather than public sector.

The company, with the assistance of TVP, is planning to launch a second funding round in the second half of the year. Wing said it is likely TVP will invest in Impaq again at that time, but other strategic investors will be encouraged.

The second round of funding is expected to be used to move into Asia, the US and Europe, Smyth said. India is expected to be the first Asian location and Impaq is undergoing negotiations with alliance partner Encyclopaedia Britannica to roll out a pilot program in the US and the UK.

TVP has invested in 12 other companies, covering the travel and hospitality sectors, SMEs, gaming and business-to-business commerce.

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