It’s a challenge that companies around the world are grappling with – how to reach Generation Z, the digitally savvy cohort born after the mid-1990s.

Entrepreneur Josh Rathour, 35, came up with a solution: develop technology to verify whether or not these young people are students. This enables brands to offer student-specific discounts – in shops, online and through social media – on everything from fashion and beauty to food and drink, technology and fitness. Reaching this customer base when they first become financially independent helps businesses to create long-term loyalty.

Just a year after Rathour set up UNiDAYS in 2011 with three co-founders, the company won its first big international customer – the fashion retailer Asos. This was followed by the likes of Samsung, Nike and Apple – including an exclusive deal in 2016 to offer a 50% student discount on the Apple Music streaming service – and 600 other global brands.

The Nottingham company, which has opened offices in London, New York and Sydney, says it has now built the largest online community of students in the world, at 10m and counting.

It engages with this audience through a social media following of more than 800,000, as well as initiatives such as student councils in the UK, Australia and the US, spanning 20,000 members, who help improve its platform and approve new brands for the network.

Last year it helped generate more than £1.9bn in revenues for its partners, pushing its own overseas sales to £3.3m, up from £209,000 just two years earlier.

Rathour, the chief executive, aims to grow the firm into one of the biggest internet companies in the UK. He says its platform is capable of verifying over 192m students in the 114 countries it operates, after launching in an additional 82 markets this month.

UNiDAYS plans to increase its headcount to a total of 400 people in the first five months of this year, by expanding its New York office and recruiting 30 software developers at its Nottingham headquarters.

It is also looking to open new offices in France, Germany and Canada.

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Company details
ActivityStudent verification services
2 yr av intl sales growth % pa299.32%
International sales £000s3,332
Total sales £000s15,712

If applicable:

* Supplied by company † Annualised figure