London startup RefME today announced it has raised $4 million (£2.7million) for its free student-referencing app.

The company, which was awarded the prize for best British mobile startup at MWC last month, allows students to generate citations, reference lists and bibliographies with its mobile and web app. The app  allows students and academics to reference their work in the style of their choice by scanning a barcode on a book or journal, copying and pasting a hyperlink or searching for the publication manually. This data is then saved and synced in the cloud so it can be accessed across multiple devices. 

RefME cofounder Tom Hatton ©RefME
RefME cofounder Tom Hatton ©RefME

The Old Street-based company raised the seed funding round from Gems Education, which claims to be the largest education fund in the world. 

The money will go towards hiring new staff, particularly engineers and data experts, in addition to helping RefME expand into new markets, with a particular focus on the US, where it hopes to open an office within the next couple of months.

RefME said it has acquired over 800,000 users in less than a year, putting its growth on a higher trajectory than eBay and Spotify in their first year. The company claims it is now attracting an average of 10,000 new users a day, with some days seeing over 30,000.

“We set out to create a world-class tool that automates a time-consuming, but important problem 150 million students face globally,” said Tom Hatton, CEO and Co-founder of RefME.

"We’ve even been accused of making students’ work too easy given they now don’t have to spend hours making sure their citations and references are completely accurate.

“Our technology does it in seconds and they can use their smartphones just by scanning a book’s barcode or use to cite anything online, in a click. The evolution of technology is an inspiration and it is absurd not to embrace new innovation and use it to really improve and aid students in their development.”

RefME's growth is being driven by its team of 36 employees, including former workers at companies such as Apple, Google, Nasa and Morgan Stanley.

Sunny Varkey, group chairman and founder of Gems Education said: “RefME has huge potential to disrupt education, publishing and ultimately search as well. RefME learns what students and researchers all around the world discover and has the power to share this information. 

“RefME has built a tool that helps validate information and ultimately show where you’ve found knowledge. This is as important to education as it is to the web itself and that is very compelling”.