Mr Woodland founded Xplor in Melbourne in 2010 after the outdated systems and excessive administration that plagued his mother’s childcare centre drove him to develop a cloud-based administrative platform.
After 10 years of explosive growth and installation in more than half of Australia’s 14,000 childcare centres, Xplor caught the eye of New Zealand-based payments solutions provider Transaction Services Group.
TSG bought Xplor in January 2020 for an undisclosed amount and, after some corporate reshuffling by TSG’s parent, US-private equity giant Advent International, TSG merged with Clearent, a fellow portfolio company and payments business.
We now have this global vantage point from which to see how education is working across all different societies.
— Mark Woodland, Xplor founder
The new, merged entity was rebranded in June this year as Xplor Technologies and was valued at $3.8 billion.
“That whole deal started with us actually meeting with Advent International in 2019 and talking with them about their investment in QuickKids, which was this huge legacy-childcare system that they wanted to ultimately move to the cloud,” Mr Woodland said of the discussions that led to Xplor’s acquisition and Mr Woodland’s personal wealth ballooning from the $54 million slated in AFR’s previous Rich List analysis.
“We were this aggressively growing, venture-backed, cloud-based platform, and these guys wanted a way to bring their legacy system into the cloud and we wanted to go global.”
Xplor’s software originally underpinned an online platform for parents to interact with their children in real time during the day and where childcare centres and schools could manage their operations.
Using iBeacon technology, Xplor enabled parents to automatically sign their children in and out of a childcare centre or school through Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and track children at school when they headed to extracurricular activities such as sport or music lessons.
As head of the education vertical at Xplor Technologies, Mr Woodland sees the deal with TSG. and ultimately Advent. as a way to strip out inefficiencies in childcare and education and give time back to teachers at scale.
“We now have this global vantage point from which to see how education is working across all different societies,” he said.
COVID-19 has proved a sobering time for those involved in education, with visibility over the “haves” and “have nots” clearly demonstrated as schools and childcare centres closed and children were schooled remotely.
“The kinds of decisions families needed to make around technology – how three people could use the one laptop or choosing between work and paying the bills or letting your child do a class – that was the real reality for a lot of people in Australia,” Mr Woodland said.
As a result, Xplor partnered with The Smith Family, a children’s charity, sponsoring more than 100 students through the charity’s Learning for Life sponsorship program, as well as its career program, Work Inspiration.
Mr Woodland is critical of the Australian government’s inability to offer bipartisan policy on education and how technology is changing the way children learn and how teachers teach.
“There’s too much worrying about getting re-elected or not,” he said. “Let’s worry about how we can get kids access to education, whether that’s through digitisation or through a genuine understanding of how children use technology.”