The market for corporate training, which Allied Market Research estimates is worth over $400 billion, has grown significantly in recent years as companies realize the cost savings in upscaling their workers. One PwC report found that teaching employees additional skills can save a company between 43% and 66% of termination costs alone, depending on the salary.
But it remains challenging for organizations of a certain size to quickly build and analyze the impact of learning programs. In a 2019 survey, Harvard Business Review found that 75% of managers were dissatisfied with their employer’s learning and development (L&D) function and only 12% of employees used new skills learned in L&D programs to do their jobs.
Searching for 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 reskill staff. The co-founders, with an AI engine, claim Obrizum can tailor corporate learning experiences to individual staffers, identify knowledge gaps and measure things like learning efficiency.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that businesses will need to continue to invest heavily in effective, successful training and knowledge sharing regardless of their workplace setup,” Agley, Obrizum’s CEO, told TechCrunch in an interview. “We are solving the widespread industry issue of efficiency. Businesses have less time available than ever before to create programs of study or assessment. Meanwhile, there is more and more information to learn.”
So how does Obrizum try to achieve this? By creating what Agley calls “knowledge spaces” rather than linear training courses. Obrizum works with a company’s existing training resources, analyzing and curating webcasts, PDFs, slide decks, infographics and even virtual reality content into white-collar modules that adjust based on a student’s performance on regular assessments.
Obrizum’s algorithms can both reinforce concepts and emphasize weak areas, ugly claims, by detecting guessing and “click-through cheating” (ie fast-forwarding through videos).
“Abrizum makes it much easier to surface and use valuable information that might not traditionally be used for teaching or training,” said Agley. “In essence, the individual’s data is used to benefit the individual—which is as it should be. Then, at an organizational level, machine learning can be used to find trends and patterns that can benefit the majority. . . . Managers Can see real-time summary data including usage statistics and a breakdown of performance relative to core concepts for groups of learners.Management level users can also drill down into the performance and activity of individual users.
For employees uncomfortable with Obrizum’s analytics in an era of pervasive workplace surveillance, fortunately they can anonymize themselves and—in compliance with the GDPR—request the deletion of their personal data through self-service tools, Agley says.
As Obrizum looks to the future, the company will invest in more comprehensive content automation and analytics technologies, integrations with third-party services and collaboration and sharing capabilities, according to Agley. The pressure is on to stand out from competitor platforms like Learnsoft, which lets you set up training sessions 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 to businesses that use content from multiple publishers and silos. The good news is, corporate learning software remains a lucrative space, with investors pouring more than $2.1 billion into an assortment of startups focused on “skilling” employees between February 2021 and February 2021, according to Crunchbase data.
Agley claims that Obrizum is currently working with about 20 enterprise clients, including a growing cohort of government, aerospace and defense organizations. When asked about Obrizum’s revenue, he revealed only that it has increased 17x since the end of 2020 – mostly due to the digital transformation efforts of the client started during the pandemic.
“Obrizum is a sector-agnostic solution that is key to our ability to scale quickly and resiliently even in the challenging macroeconomic climate. . . . Even when it comes to learning experience platforms, Obrizum stands out on its own through the level of automation, the Granularity of its adaptability and the diagnostic detail of the analytics it offers,” Agley said. “We are incredibly optimistic about the opportunities in our sector despite the broader economic outlook. Learning is, and always will be, required in the world of work and in a post-pandemic world, the corporate learning market is expanding rapidly.
To date, Obrizum – which employs a staff of 38 – has raised $17 million in venture capital. This 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.