The digital landscape is evolving so fast that one’s four-year degree can hardly keep up with the myriad platforms and APIs emerging every day. That’s why Skills Union wants to connect tech startup workers looking to level up with an array of field-specific experts over live video.
Online professional training isn’t new; it’s not uncommon to see medium-sized startups allocate several thousand dollars to individual employees each year to further their “personal development.” But the existing options for acquiring professional skills just aren’t very effective, argues Colin Mansell, founder and CEO of Skills Union. The company is exhibiting as one of the Battlefield 200 at Disrupt 2022.
The pace of technological changes means companies now expect their employees to be constantly learning and upgrading their on-the-job skills. Figma, for instance, went from an underdog to a widely used UX design collaboration platform in the space of just a few years.
Much of the skills training for high-growth startups is happening through pre-recorded videos on platforms like Coursera or Codecademy. The problem is that the completion rate for massive open online courses, or MOOCs, teeters around only 5-15%. Mansell, who ran a digital agency and helped build a coding school in Canada, believes the solution is to replace passive learning with more personalized and interactive lessons.
The Singapore-based startup offers an all-in-one platform for employers to manage their staff’s career development. It has a network of consultants who help employees figure out what expertise they need to get better at their job. It then matches them to a pool of instructors, be it a leadership coach, digital marketing guru, sales expert, or Python master, upon which the student and teacher can arrange to meet over a video call.
The startup offers a freemium SaaS service to enterprises, which the founder believes can reduce “friction” for users, and charges for the training programs it offers. The model also enables more flexible learning. If an employee runs into a technical problem on a project and can’t get internal help, they can instantly set up a call with an expert on Skills Union.
“We are like BetterUp but focusing on skills,” says Mansell, comparing his company to the well-backed SaaS platform that connects employees to career coaches.
The startup has raised $2 million so far and achieved profitability. It’s looking to raise a Series A funding round next year, the founder told TechCrunch.
Skills Union has trained over 500 students through 30 instructors so far and will expand its pool of specialists by partnering with third-party training providers. Most of its customers are based in Singapore, including Nanyang Technological University, Citibank, J.P. Morgan and DBS; but with its official launch next year, the startup is looking to onboard companies with fewer than 1,000 employees in Australia and the U.S.