The market for corporate training, which Allied Market Research estimates is worth more than $400 billion, has grown significantly in recent years as companies realize the cost savings in upskilling their employees. A PwC report found that teaching employees additional skills can save a company between 43% and 66% in termination costs alone, depending on salary.
However, it remains a challenge for organizations of any size to quickly create and analyze the impact of learning programs. In a 2019 survey, the 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 applied new skills learned in R&D programs to make the their work.
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 upskilling and upskilling staff. By leveraging an artificial intelligence engine, the co-founders claim Obrizum can tailor corporate learning experiences to individual executives, identifying knowledge gaps and measuring things like learning efficiency.
“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that businesses will need to continue to invest heavily in effective, successful training and knowledge sharing regardless of their work environment,” said Agley, CEO of Obrizum, in an interview with TechCrunch. “We are solving the widespread industry issue of efficiency. Businesses have less time available than ever to create learning or assessment programs. Meanwhile, there is more and more information to be learned.”
So how does Obrizum plan to achieve this? 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-label modules that adjust based on learner performance in regular assessments.
Obrizum’s algorithms can amplify concepts and emphasize weaker areas, Agley claims, by detecting guesswork and “click fraud” (i.e., fast-forwarding through video).
“Obrizum makes it easy to display and use valuable information that may not traditionally be used for learning or training,” Agley said. “At Obrizum, the individual’s data is used for the individual’s benefit — as it should be. Then, at the organizational level, machine learning can be used to identify trends and patterns that can benefit the majority. . . . Administrators can view real-time summary data, including usage statistics and analysis of performance against key concepts for groups of students. Administrative users can also drill down into individual user performance and activity.”
For employees who don’t feel comfortable with Obrizum’s analytics in an era of pervasive workplace surveillance, fortunately they can anonymize themselves and — in accordance with GDPR — request 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. There’s pressure to differentiate yourself from rival platforms like Learnsoft, which allows training setup to be automated 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 upgrade platform. software-as-a-service tool GrowthSpace. and to a lesser extent Go1, which provides a collection of online training materials and tools to businesses leveraging content from multiple publishers and silos. The good news is that enterprise learning software remains a lucrative space, with investors pouring more than $2.1 billion into a variety of startups focused on “skilling” workers between February 2021 and February 2021, according to data from Crunchbase.
Agley claims Obrizum works with about 20 enterprise customers currently, including a growing group of government, aerospace and defense organizations. He demurred when asked about Obrizum’s revenue, revealing only that it has grown 17 times since the end of 2020 — largely due to customer digital transformation efforts launched 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 sets itself apart in terms of the level of automation, the granularity of its adaptability, and the diagnostic detail of the analytics it offers,” said Agley. “We are incredibly optimistic about the opportunities in our industry despite the broader economic outlook. Learning is, and always will be, required in the world of work and in a post-pandemic world, the market for corporate learning 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.