The business training market, valued at over $400 billion by Allied Market Research, has grown significantly in recent years as companies realize the cost savings of upskilling their workforce. A PwC report found that providing employees with additional skills can save a company between 43% and 66% on layoff costs, depending on salary.
But building learning programs quickly and analyzing the impact remains a challenge for organizations of a certain size. 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 considered new skills they learned in L&D programs for applied their work.
Seeking an answer, a trio of Cambridge scientists – Chibeza Agley, Sarra Achouri and Juergen Fink – founded Obrizum, a company that uses “adaptive learning” techniques to upskill and reskill employees. By leveraging an AI engine, the co-founders claim that Obrizum can tailor organizational learning experiences to individual employees, identify knowledge gaps and measure things like learning effectiveness.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that companies, whatever their workplace design, must continue to invest heavily in efficient, successful training and knowledge sharing,” Agley, CEO of Obrizum, said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We solve the efficiency problem that is widespread in the industry. Businesses have less time than ever to create learning or assessment programs. In the meantime, more and more information has to be conveyed.”
How does Obbrizum intend to achieve this? By creating what Agley calls “knowledge spaces” rather than linear training courses. Obrizum works with an organization’s existing training resources, analyzing and curating webcasts, PDFs, presentations, infographics and even virtual reality content into white-labeled modules that adapt based on a learner’s performance on regular assessments.
Obrizum’s algorithms can both reinforce concepts and highlight weaker areas, Agley claims, by detecting guesswork and “click-through cheating” (fast-forwarding through videos).
“Obrizum makes it much easier to surface and leverage valuable information that isn’t typically used for learning or training,” Agley said. “In Obrizum, the individual’s data is used for the benefit of the individual – that’s the way it should be. Then organizational-level machine learning can be used to spot trends and patterns that can benefit the majority. . . . Managers can view real-time summary data, including usage statistics and a breakdown of performance against core concepts for groups of learners. Management-level users can also drill down into the performance and activity of individual users.”
Fortunately, for employees who are uncomfortable with Obrizum’s analytics in an age of ubiquitous workplace surveillance, they can anonymize themselves and — in compliance with GDPR — request the deletion of their personal data through self-service tools, says Agley.
As Obrizum looks to the future, Agley said the company will invest in broader content automation and analytics technologies, integrations with third-party services, and collaboration and sharing capabilities. There is a lot of pressure to differentiate from competing platforms like Learnsoft, which can automate set training and track metrics like accreditations, and generate 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 leverage content from multiple publishers and silos. The good news is that corporate learning software remains a lucrative area, with investors pouring more than $2.1 billion between February 2021 and February 2021 in a series of startups that are expanding, according to Crunchbase data focus on “skilling” employees.
Agley claims that Obbrizum is currently working with about 20 enterprise customers, including a growing group of government, aerospace and defense organizations. When asked about Obrizum’s revenue, he disagreed, only revealing that it’s up 17x since the end of 2020 — largely due to client digital transformation efforts initiated during the pandemic.
“Obrizum is an industry-agnostic solution that is key to our ability to scale quickly and stably, even in a challenging macroeconomic environment. . . . Even when it comes to learning experience platforms, what sets Obrizum apart is the level of automation, the granularity of its customization capabilities, and the diagnostic detail of the analytics it offers,” said Agley. “Despite the broader economic outlook, we are incredibly optimistic about the opportunities in our sector. Learning has always been required in the workplace and in a post-pandemic world, the market for corporate learning is growing rapidly.”
To date, Obbrizum – which employs 38 people – has raised $17 million in venture capital. This includes a $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.