Vancity Entrepreneurs: Learndot

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Vancouver-Sun-Nov-2012

Learning is a constant process for startups and corporations alike. A lot of it happens naturally, but also, much of it is consciously created internally to train employees, partners, and customers. A Learning Management System (LMS) focuses on training programs or educational courses and how to track, support, and deliver it an an optimal level. This week, local entrepreneur Paul Lambert, and his recently rebranded team at Learndot, put the LMS sector on its head and deliver a refreshed way for corporations to train their employees, partners, and customers.

1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and how it got started.

I’m Paul  Lambert, my business is Learndot. It was started as Matygo over 3 years ago as a online marketplace for tutors and has morphed through three pivots and countless learnings to be Learndot, the SaaS learning platform for businesses.

2. What makes you unique? What are the big take-aways about Learndot that the public should really be aware of?

We focus on three things that make us unique in the market:

1) Measurement, analytics, and business metrics. We provide insight into content effectiveness and learner understanding far beyond traditional LMS systems. Moreover, we care about the higher-level business goal of each learning project and correlate our granular metrics with the metrics that the project will be judged by. We give our customers and users confidence they’re making a smart decision.

2) Learning theory and best practices. Traditional LMSs focus on ‘management’ and data. We focus on people and learners. We are learner-centric. We have our own course content creation tool that implements learning best practices and guides subject matter experts  through creating effective course material. Everything we do on the learner side is guided by the goal of ‘how do we increase learning outcomes’ (and can use our own customer-facing analytics tools as a testbed for running experiments, see point 1).

3) User experience. We care deeply about UX, design, and elegant solutions. If existing LMSs are a semi truck, we’re a ducatti.

3. Talk about how Learndot is influencing the future of corporations internal learning processes and channel partner/customer education.

There are three problems we solve:

Team training: Internal onboarding, keeping everyone up to speed. Knowing who’s learnt what, what level they’re at, distributing content and measuring its effectiveness. Companies need to teach new hires their culture, their product, and the new hire’s particular role. They also need to provide ongoing training for product updates, internal reshuffling, etc.. This is particularly painful in fast-growing teams and in distributed teams. Notably Zirtual is both and as such they are perfect early-adopters.

Partner/Channel Training: B2B technology products often generate a significant % of revenue through indirect sales channels: VARs, re-distributors, infrastructure platforms, implementation consultants, etc.. The performance (in terms of volume and size of sales) of these channels is directly correlated to the knowledge/training the channel has of the product and of how to sell it. As mentioned, these products change quickly. As such, there is a constant need to keep channels up to date and engaged so they know what they’re selling. Moreover, providing sales training to channels is also effective in increasing revenue.

Customer training/onboarding: B2B daily-use tools usually have a substantial learning curve and associated skillset to be developed in their end-users. Think of the many people whose job is to manage  CRM, accounting software, social media tools, photoshop, etc… The businesses creating these products have a strong need to help users acquire these skillsets, or to “turn their users into power users.” It leads to higher customer retention/lower churn. When these power users change positions, they often bring the tools to their new workplace – hence more money is generated. The skillsets show up on resumes and becomes a badge to be achieved (viral brand distribution). These are often manifested as certifications. E.g. “A microsoft certified SQL Server professional”.

To solve these problem you need a platform that can do a number of things:

– The delivery of different types of training materials natively, from text and links to screencasts and powerpoints.

– The ability to deliver training to audiences internally and externally seamlessly

– The ability for content to be easily updated to keep up with product advances.

– Insight into the levels, knowledge, and rentention of learners/audiences. This is essential for delivering certifications, assessing whether or not business goals have been achieved.

– Insight into the effectiveness of the content being delivered. This is essential for making smart investment decisions into content, so learning content producers can learn, iterate quickly, and focus their efforts on improving the content that will make the most impact.

Naturally, Learndot does all of this. :)

4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?

We’ve been through the startup gauntlet. We’ve had major pivots. We’ve rebranded. We’ve run out of money. We’ve raised money. We’ve lost customers. We’ve had internal struggles. We had public failings.

We’ve mitigated them by not being afraid to react and evolve (not being too attached to a particular idea), chucking ego out the door and focusing on external objective external metrics, and by never giving up.

5. How does this improve the city of Vancouver? What is the real world problem you’re solving?

Please see above for the real world problems we solve. None of that is specific to Vancouver.

We help the city of Vancouver by being a Vancouver-based startup on the world stage (raising profile of the city), creating jobs, and giving back to the community whenever we can.

6. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?

First make sure you’re solving a real problem, validated by people who are your target customer/users (e.g. not you). Ideally validated by dollars, because people say they want a lot things they don’t actually need that badly. Most people start web companies cause they think they sounds reasonable (e.g. a social network for coffee drinkers or something). That won’t work. People will pay for things (including with their time) because they solve a problem for them. No coffee drinkers wake up in the morning saying “man I need a social network so I can connect with other caffeine friends. I’d pay for that.” But they do wake up saying “man I’d pay someone $2.50″ for an americano right now,” because their lack of an americano at that moment is a real problem to them.

 *End of interview*

Besides launching a business that does things differently from the rest, what impresses me the most are the challenges the team has overcome in question 4. What sets entrepreneurs apart is exactly what Paul talked about: facing uncertainty and constant challenges and combating them with perseverance and calculated learning. Paul’s case is an extreme one but most startups do go through the same sorts of things and very few succeed in the end. Kudos to Paul and his team and I wish them the best of luck!

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Stay in touch @pauldavidescu

*Vancity Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs or startups that are making Vancouver a better place. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send paul@vancitybuzz.com an email explaining why*

Photo Credit: The Vancouver Sun

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Paul Davidescu Founder of Tangoo, the pocket concierge app that delivers the most personal and seamless way to organize the perfect social outing at restaurants and social venues matched to your mood: (www.tangoo.ca/app). Former editor of Vancouver Entrepreneurs series, UBC Sauder alumni, public speaker, startup mentor.
@pauldavidescu

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