The corporate training market, that Allied Market Research estimates is worth more than $400 billion, has grown significantly in recent years as companies realize the cost savings of upskilling their employees. One PwC report found that learning additional skills alone can save a company between 43% and 66% in layoff costs, depending on salary.
But it remains a challenge for organizations of a certain size to quickly build and analyze the impact of learning programs. In a 2019 questionnaireHarvard Business Review found that 75% of managers were dissatisfied with their employer’s learning and development (L&D) function and only 12% of employees applied new skills learned in L&D programs to do their job.
In search of an answer, a trio of Cambridge scientists – Chibeza Agley, Sarra Achouri and Juergen Fink – co-founded obrizum, a company that applies “adaptive learning” techniques to upskill and upskill staff. Using an AI engine, the co-founders claim that Obrizum can tailor company learning experiences to individual employees, identify knowledge gaps, and measure things like learning efficiency.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that companies will need to continue to invest heavily in efficient, successful training and knowledge sharing, regardless of their workplace,” Agley, Obrizum’s CEO, told TechCrunch in an interview. “We solve the widespread problem of efficiency in the industry. Companies have less time than ever before to create learning or assessment programs. In the meantime, there is more and more information to learn.”
So how does Obrizum claim to achieve this? By creating what Agley calls “knowledge spaces” rather than linear training courses. Working with a company’s existing training resources, Obrizum analyzes and curates webcasts, PDFs, slide decks, infographics, and even virtual reality content in white-label modules that are customized based on a learner’s performance in regular assessments.
Obrizum’s algorithms can both reinforce concepts and emphasize weaker areas, Agley claims, by detecting guesswork and “click-through trickery” (ie, fast-forwarding through videos).
“Obrizum makes it much easier to surface and use valuable information that isn’t traditionally used for learning or training,” Agley said. “In Obrizum, the individual’s data is used to benefit the individual – and that’s how it should be. Then, organizational-level machine learning can be used to discover trends and patterns that can benefit the majority. . . . Managers can see real-time summary data, including usage statistics and a breakdown of performance against core concepts for student groups. Management-level users can also drill down into the performance and activity of individual users.”
For employees who are uncomfortable with Obrizum’s analytics in an era of penetrating surveillance of the workplacefortunately, they can anonymize themselves and — compliant with GDPR — request deletion of their personal data through self-service tools, says Agley.
As Obrizum looks to the future, Agley says the company will invest in more comprehensive content automation and analytics technologies, integrations with third-party services, and collaboration and sharing capabilities. There’s a lot of pressure to stand out against rival platforms like Learnsoft, which can set up training automatically and track metrics like accreditation, as well as generate proof of credentials and certifications for management reviews and audits.
Obrizum also competes with Workera, a precision upskilling platform; software-as-a-service tool GrowthSpace; and to a lesser extent, Go1, which provides a collection of online learning materials and tools for businesses that consume content from multiple publishers and silos. The good news is that corporate learning software remains a lucrative space, with investors pouring more than $2.1 billion between February 2021 and February 2021 into an assortment of startups focused on “skilling” employees. according to Crunchbase data.
Agley claims that Obrizum currently works with about 20 enterprise clients, including a growing cohort of government, aerospace and defense organizations. He objected when asked about Obrizum’s revenue, only revealing that it’s up 17x since the end of 2020 – mainly due to customers’ digital transformation efforts kicked off during the pandemic.
“Obrizum is an industry agnostic solution that is critical to our ability to scale quickly and resiliently, even in the challenging macroeconomic environment. . . . Even when it comes to learning experience platforms, Obrizum sets itself apart by the level of automation, the granularity of its adaptability, and the diagnostic detail of the analytics it provides,” said Agley. “Despite the broader economic outlook, we are incredibly optimistic about the opportunities in our industry. Learning is and will always be necessary in the world of work and in a post-pandemic world, the business learning market is growing rapidly.”
To date, Obrizum, which has 38 employees, has raised $17 million in venture capital. That includes an $11.5 million Series A led by Guinness Ventures with participation from Beaubridge, Juno Capital Partners and Qatar Science & Tech Holdings and Celeres Ventures, which closed today.