At Notion we invest in the entrepreneurs and companies disrupting and modernising massive markets and complex business problems. One market that has seen little innovation to-date is the learning and development space, not just in it’s traditional (dare I say, boring) sense but in the multitude of heights, that new platforms and user behaviours could take it to. So when I found myself having coffee with Smartup.io’s CEO and co-founder Frank Meehan, discussing all that’s possible in this space with what they were building, I was sold!
So we are very excited to be supporting Smartup.io’s journey with their recent $5.5M investment round, along with Hong Leong Group, the tireless team behind Founder Forum group and a selection of world class angel investors.
We are interacting, sharing, learning and evolving all throughout our personal lives, why not in our working lives?
It’s been said time and time again that millennials are taking over the workplace (and Generation Z is not far behind); they are tech savvy and are demanding a better connected and more transparent and mobile working environment. We have witnessed the consumerisation of IT take place over the last few years with mobile penetration in the enterprise; better user experiences in enterprise products; and collaboration platforms taking over our daily work life. And yet little had been done to modernise learning and knowledge sharing within large organisations.
Having worked at big corporates for many years, I’ve experienced first hand, the limited and archaic approaches to employee onboarding and engagement, let alone ongoing learning and development. Anything from in-person (and very dull) training courses, including box files to take home, and dated video-on-demand. But one thing is for sure; I always had significant budget at my disposal, but I never felt compelled to use what was on offer.
Companies understand the increasing competition they face in the war for talent across the world and are continuing to allocate budget towards it. The cost of acquiring a new employee though is so much higher than retraining or repositioning an existing employee and this is surely the biggest challenge many enterprises face. We live in an era of automation and many jobs will be increasingly replaced by machines, so being a knowledge worker won’t cut it anymore, we all need to constantly learn and evolve. We used to study once in our lives, high school, perhaps an undergrad degree and some even a master’s degree, and we were done with our learning by the age of 30 or so. We never allocated much time to education for the rest of our lives. In the future we must all keep our skills and expertise up to date throughout our life just to stay relevant, it will no longer be a one-time activity.
There is a massive global workforce of approximately 3 billion people who will all increasingly need to learn and adjust. Service providers, like LinkedIn, definitely understand the opportunity of bringing people’s expertise together with learning, the acquisition of Lynda for $1.5B (whether that was a good move or not, time will tell) was an example of that. The market is already acknowledging the opportunity with slew of new entrants in Degreed, Pathgather, Grovo, Edcast and very many others in the works to address it.
Platforms have to match users’ expectations
One thing is clear, employees will no longer accept a subpar user experience. Especially when you’re dealing with a product that you use constantly to learn, share and engage with your peers at work, both during work hours and on your own free time.
The Smartup product originally started as a consumer facing mobile app (which still exists as a free product on the app stores), catering to startup founders, innovators etc. So design and user experience have always been top of mind for the team to ensure they have that engagement from their users. Over time the platform has continued to evolve to add more and more sharing, social engaging capabilities, a robust web version and rock solid security features to ensure it adheres to the strictest requirements of enterprise IT departments. To top that up the team has developed it’s own beautiful content management system to enable functions within the enterprise, as well as partners, to create their own content and fuel the conversations and knowledge exchange within their organisation.
The platform is becoming a full-fledged enterprise platform while at the same time staying true to its consumer user experience DNA.
Employers are realising the need and acting on it
The demand from enterprise clients has been overwhelming. Customers are realising that they have endless content and knowledge internally, within their document management and LMS systems and most importantly within their employee base. With a platform like Smartup they saw the endless possibilities available to them to capture and share that knowledge within their workforce and beyond. Content on the platform currently ranges from compliance, sales and product training material to HR onboarding processes and innovation initiatives within their organisations. Organisations are also looking to use it for partner and customer facing processes and material.
And the talented Smartup team is executing tirelessly
Last but definitely not least, the primary reason we get excited about investing in companies is the team. Smartup was founded by Frank Meehan and Brent Hoberman and is supported by the Founders Forum strong network and team. The team has a wealth of building successful consumer facing products. They have surrounded themselves with a hungry young talented team on the product and technical side and seasoned global executives on the marketing and sales functions.
We are only seeing the beginning of what is to be a rapidly changing global workforce landscape and workplace environment. We believe platforms like Smartup are the way forward to enable employers to better capture and utilise their knowledge base and most importantly for employees to reach their full potential. We are looking forward to provide every bit of our energy and expertise to Smartup’s efforts to power this market.
Posted by Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, Principal at Notion Capital.
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