Acadmi is developing the very first live and interactive global B2B Learning Platform for the creative industries. The platform will provide a complete learning solution for individual tutors and organisations to manage, build, monetise, deliver and evaluate live and interactive, video-led courses and programmes to audiences in emerging markets around the world.
As one of the latest businesses to go live on our platform, we sat down with Arjun Chatterji, CEO of Acadmi, to find out more.
Disclaimer: Please note that the answers that Arjun gives in the interview are his own opinions and have not been prepared by CrowdBnk or approved by Resolution Compliance Limited.
CrowdBnk: Hi Arjun, thank you for sitting down with us today. Firstly, tell us about your background and what inspired you to set up Acadmi.
Arjun: After graduating from Edinburgh University with a Masters in Mandarin and Chinese Studies, I immediately started working in the Creative Industries – firstly as a New Business and Marketing Account Manager in St. Luke’s, a prestigious London-based Ad Agency, and then, having gained a Diploma in Advanced Filmmaking, I worked in Film and Television for over 3 years. We were awarded with an Incubation Grant from the National Film and Television School and NESTA to develop a prototype for the UK’s first Online Film Academy. Launched in 2012, The Imaginox Academy gave us an in-depth understanding and knowledge of how learners engage with online content as well as with their peers and tutors. We were nominated for the most innovative product in the creative industries and gained significant accolades and contacts within the Film and Television Sector - both in the UK and internationally.
The inspiration to set up Acadmi really emerged from the evidence seen on the ground – particularly in emerging markets around the world. Training and Education remains prohibitively priced and, on the large part, inaccessible. Companies and the Public Sector alike pay a disproportionate amount for training, if and when they can afford it, for their staff to upskill. Yet, all the evidence points to vastly improved productivity if a company adopts a culture of continuous professional development. We really see this as an incredible opportunity for curated online learning to offer an affordable, efficient, scalable and accountable way for companies to train their staff.
CrowdBnk: You intend to create the industry’s first Global B2B training marketplace – are there any similar products that currently exist in the EdTech sector? If so, how do you differentiate yourselves from these products?
Arjun: The EdTech sector is currently thriving with over $2 billion’s worth of investment in 2014. There are some very significant players within the industry and, increasingly, within the B2B sector. Udemy, for example, with over 2 million subscribers, is addressing both the consumer as well as the B2B market. Specifically within the Creative Industry sector, there are two competitors: Lynda.com and CreativeLive. Lynda.com has been valued at over $1 Billion and CreativeLive recently raised $21.5 million and has over 2 million subscribers.
However, our key differentiating factors are absolutely clear and allow us to distinguish ourselves from the competition.
Firstly, unique technology tailored specifically to the Creative Industries. We have studied how learners as well as tutors interactively engage with content over the past 3 years and we are applying that knowledge uniquely to our model of online delivery.
Secondly, we are creating a unique online content marketplace. Through bespoke and proprietary pipelines of data, we are able to provide specific analytics back to both content providers as well as to companies and organisations or the recipients of content. For example, a training academy here will be able to understand the key skills requirements in territories, such as Dubai and Singapore, and a company in Jakarta will be able to receive specific recommendations and discounted offers to meet these requirements.
Thirdly, we deliver both Live as well as Asynchronous content with an ever-evolving library of video-based courses and programmes, accessible across multiple devices so that learning can be truly mobile. This will provide an enriched and dynamic experience for the end user, delivering real-time mentorship and tutor interaction.
Fourthly, Acadmi’s platform offers a new social, collaborative and interactive way of delivering Corporate Training Online. Gone is the rather staid, flat, perfunctory and prosaic way of delivering content, replaced with a platform that will keep learners not only actively engaged, but also judging and benchmarking their progress against their peers.
Lastly, Acadmi is a Single Vertical Marketplace focused upon the creative industries in emerging markets around the world and delivering curated, world-class British content on a platform that is elegantly simple to use. This will be the foundation to scale in the future into different sectors and industries, such as Online Language Learning, Coding and Programming and Professional Qualifications.
CrowdBnk: Why have you decided to target the emerging markets specifically? Do you intend to extend this to other worldwide markets in the future?
Arjun: We are basing our strategy upon a ‘Trinity of Trends’ or a convergence of growth across both the Online Learning Sector and the Creative Industries in Emerging Economies and, yet, underlined with a need for skills development in order to sustain that growth over the long-term.
UNESCO’s Creative Economy Report cited that Creative Economies across Emerging Markets are growing at an average rate of 12.1% annually, where creative industry employment, across 40 different countries, represented 5.36% of a country’s total workforce.
Online Corporate Training, a $25 Billion market, is being largely driven by the dynamic growth rate in emerging economies that Acadmi will be targeting. Asia, for example, is growing at 17.3% per year, Africa at 15.3%, Eastern Europe at 16.9% and South America at 14.6%.
However, there is an inadequate skills infrastructure within these territories that makes this an exciting, untapped opportunity for Acadmi. India, for example, only has 18 reputable training academies and, yet, its creative industries are worth over $16 Billion with over 1.8 million core employees.
CrowdBnk: Why did you choose crowdfunding over traditional methods of sourcing finance? Why CrowdBnk in particular?
Arjun: As a start-up company, the crowdfunding model really appealed in reaching out to both a consumer market and a broad diversity of sophisticated investors. The cost-effective scale of reach, as well as the conversations and connections that could potentially be gained, far outweighed delivering the fundraising campaign ourselves.
The leverage and framework of support that CrowdBk provided Acadmi not only enhanced our business proposition significantly and provided us with the key individuals required to launch our fundraising campaign, but also allowed us to focus on the core objectives within the business – in particular, the strategy of attracting the right investors to our proposition. CrowdBnk has also helped in building Acadmi’s team with the recommendation of our now Head of Marketing, Rebecca McKinlay.
CrowdBnk: How do you intend to use the capital raised?
Arjun: The £60,000 that we hope to raise for 7.8% of Acadmi’s share capital will be used primarily to get our online product to market by June 2015 with between 10-20 Content Providers and Businesses on board with signed letters of intent. We have already completed 30% of the build with a fantastic team of developers and an Interim CTO in place. A successful campaign will expedite this process dramatically and, by September 2015, once we have a proof of concept in place, we will look to raise a second round of finance, hopefully at a higher valuation than at present.
CrowdBnk: Finally, please finish this sentence: Acadmi is a great investment opportunity because...
Acadmi is a great investment opportunity because of the phenomenal growth and upward trajectory of the EdTech Sector. It is a chance to shape Britain’s Creative Industries, as well as make an impact on a global scale with the export of world-class content to exciting and dynamic emerging markets, such as Singapore, Dubai and Nigeria.
At the current valuation, this is a great value for money investment with potentially exciting returns in the next 3-5 years. We have a range of exciting new products in the pipeline, as well as a scalable business model that can reach different sectors and industries. We have the perfect team in place, a strong infrastructure and a restless ambition to reach our targets quickly.
CrowdBnk: Arjun, thank you for the interview. We wish you every success with your fundraising campaign!
The Acadmi shares you may be considering buying will be issued by an unlisted company which has little trading history. Please read both our General Risk Disclosure Notice and Acadmi Specific Risk Factors carefully on the Acadmi profile page before investing. You may lose all your capital. Do not invest more than you can afford to lose.