Professional development is one of the hot areas for big corporates grappling with their millennials influx who are hungry to learn, so it makes sense that new platforms are now appearing to service this need.
Today, Learnerbly, a “curated professional development SaaS platform” based in London announces that it has raised £1.6 million in seed financing to create a so-called Development Management System. The round was led by Frontline Ventures, while other participants in the London headquartered start-up funding round include Playfair Capital, the Mayor of London’s London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF), Future Planet Capital and UK tech angels including Stephan Thoma, former Global Learning and Development director, Google; Renaud Visage, co-founder, Eventbrite; Jason Stockwood, CEO, Simply Business; and Claire Davenport, CEO, HelloFresh UK. It already has clients including IDEO, carwow, and ustwo
The founder and CEO is Rajeeb Dey MBE, a high-profile person in the UK tech community after previously founding Enternships, a portal which connected students and graduates to internships and graduate jobs in startups and fast growing businesses. For that he became a Young Global Leader (YGL) for the World Economic Forum in 2012 and the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2013.
Enternships will be the parent company/legal entity for Learnerbly, while Enternships will remain as a free to use, self-service jobs platform for startups/SMEs.
The idea is that Learnerbly allows SMEs to manage the development of their staff using personal development planning tools which flex around their personal needs. Employees are matched to learning opportunities and these are curated via peer-to-peer recommendations and insights from over 100 industry experts from companies including Google, Airbnb, AKQA and Unruly. Over 50% of the learning recommendations are either free or cheap to access.
The market for professional learning is highly fragmented and small businesses can rarely access the “Learning Management Systems (LMS)” aimed at big companies. This is a market also being attacked by the UK-based Smartup.io which this year raised $5.5m. In addition, competitors Degreed and Sequoia-backed Everwise are focused on the enterprise and are both US-based.
Learnerbly takes a bottom-up approach, allowing employees to learn however they choose — whether it’s by reading a book or article, attending a course or watching a TED talk. Employers cam also give employees learning budgets who can then spend that on courses, conferences, books and coaching through the platform. HR departments get given a view of the choices and the platform captures feedback on all internal and third-party learning opportunities and uses this to recommend the best resources and ascertain the return on investment.
Dey told me he saw the need after working on Enternships and seeing that the people placed into internships needed more professional development as they grew. “Despite nearly $360bn being spent globally by businesses in 2016 on professional development, there is still a disconnect between spend, activity and impact. Learnerbly leverages expert insights and brings transparency to expenditure by continuously assessing the efficacy of all forms of learning activities. By placing our focus on the application rather than solely the acquisition of knowledge we are able to evaluate the impact of learning both for the employee and the business. We are creating a new category in the industry which we are calling a Development Management System,” he says.
William McQuillan, Partner at Frontline Ventures says: “Millennials do not look at a job as a job for life, but instead as a stepping stone. Learning and development are therefore crucial to them when considering which employers they want to join or stay with.”