The market for corporate training, estimated by Allied Market Research to be worth more than $400 billion, has grown significantly in recent years as companies realize the cost savings of upskilling their workers. One PwC report found that teaching employees additional skills can save a company between 43% and 66% of layoff costs, depending on the salary.
But it’s still 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 applied new skills learned in L&D programs to do their jobs .
Searching for an answer, three scientists from Cambridge — Chibeza Agley, Sarra Achouri and Juergen Fink — founded Obrizum, a company that applies “adaptive learning” techniques to the upskilling and retraining of staff. By leveraging an AI engine, the co-founders claim Obrizum can tailor corporate learning experiences to individual team members, identifying knowledge gaps and measuring things like learning effectiveness.
“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,” Agley, CEO of Obrizum, told TechCrunch in an interview. “We are solving an industry wide issue of efficiency. Businesses have less time than ever to create learning or assessment programs. Meanwhile, there is more and more knowledge to be taught.”
So how does Obrizum intend 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-label modules that adjust based on learner performance on regular assessments.
Obrizum’s algorithms can strengthen concepts and emphasize weaker areas, Agley claims, by detecting guesswork and “click-through chatter” (ie, fast-forwarding through videos).
“Obrizum makes it much easier to access and use valuable information not traditionally used for learning or training,” said Agley. “In Obrizum, individual data is used for the benefit of the individual — that’s how it should be. Then, at an organizational level, machine learning can be used to identify trends and patterns that may be of public interest. . . . Managers can view 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 engage with individual user performance and activity.”
For employees who are not comfortable with Obrizum’s analytics in an era of pervasive surveillance in the workplace, fortunately they can anonymize themselves and — in accordance with the GDPR — request the deletion of their personal data through self-service tools, which says Agley.
As Obrizum looks toward the future, the company will invest in more comprehensive automation and content analytics technologies, integration with third-party services and capabilities for collaboration and sharing, according to Agley. The pressure is on competing platforms like Learnsoft, which allow set-up training to happen automatically and track metrics like accreditation, as well as generate proof of credentials and certificates for management reviews and audits.
Obrizum also competes with Workera, a precision training platform; GrowthSpace software-as-a-service tool; and to a lesser extent Go1, which provides a collection of online learning materials and tools for businesses that use content from multiple publishers and multiple repositories. The good news is, corporate learning software remains a lucrative space, with investors pouring more than $2.1 billion into a range of startups focused on employee “training” between February 2021 and February 2021, according to Crunchbase data.
Agley claims Obrizum is currently working with about 20 enterprise clients, including a growing cohort of government, aerospace and defense organizations. He demurred when asked about Obrizum’s revenue, revealing only that it has increased 17x since the end of 2020 – mainly due to client digital transformation efforts initiated during the pandemic.
“Obrizum is a sector agnostic solution that is critical 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 because of the level of automation, the granularity of its adaptability and the diagnostic data of the analysis it provides,” said Agley. “We are extremely optimistic about the opportunities in our sector despite the wider economic outlook. Learning is, and always will be, necessary 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. 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.