Back in 2014, when Ryan Austin and his co-founders were part of The Next Founders program in Toronto, the group was working on In-Acuity, a platform meant to provide continuing education to senior executives. Austin had experience as a senior vice president of training at World Trade Group, and after it was acquired by Green Hill Capital Partners, he said he became “obsessed” with the fragmented corporate training market. In-Acuity was meant to be that company disrupting this vertical.
“I compare it to building a house without a blueprint – you don’t just bust out the hammer, wood, and nails and start building.”
Fast-forward to today, and Austin and his team have been working overtime to make their business work by collaborating with instructional designers and an accreditation provider. After pivoting their business to a SaaS model, the company rebranded to ExpertKnowledge and, following its graduation form the EDGE EdTech accelerator in New York, has officially launched its product with $1 million ($725,000 USD) in seed funding.
Using the funding, the company is is doing everything they can to scale up, from working on research and development and hiring a strong team and senior experts, to growing its client base to prepare for a Series A financing.
The company’s round was led by EDGE EdTech Fund with participation from Thought into Action Ventures and other investors from New York and Houston, where Austin is currently based after participating in the Houston-based Surge accelerator last summer. “During that time, we secured elite pilot clients for ExpertKnowledge that were willing to take a ‘hands-on’ role during our pilot phase,” said Austin. “These relationships have helped us mature our product very quickly and we continue to work with them in that regard.” He decided to stay in Houston considering it is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and he felt it could allow the company to generate revenue in a smaller hub quickly before expanding to other major cities.
ExpertKnowledge’s Synapse enterprise product is a learning design and development tool that guides subject matter experts through the entire course creation process (analysis, design, develop, deliver and measure) to eliminate the need for hands-on instructional design expertise. “It removes a huge bottleneck in the learning industry,” said Austin. “Subject matter experts can now design learning programs that align with business goals and objectives and instructional designers are free to lead more projects.”
Austin said that seventy-five percent of corporations don’t design training with a purpose or with an approach to instructional design, and is a major reason why corporate training fails. “I compare it to building a house without a blueprint – you don’t just bust out the hammer, wood, and nails and start building, right?” he said. “The corporate training market is an almost $500 billion market. My research built a strong intuition that companies can consolidate corporate training efforts with their own in-house experts.”