Take life experience and domain expertise and mix in some natural inclination, hustle, no fear, and a naturally curious disposition—and the odds of entrepreneurial success are still not guaranteed.
The Thinkific team of founders and brothers Greg (CEO) and Matt (CTO) Smith exemplify these qualities. They’re arguably “naturals." Yet they are setting out to prove that the tech entrepreneur can be nurtured to success.
Delivering an entrepreneurial learning experience is not the only component of the Thinkific platform. They are working to create learning experiences through partnerships with expert instructors, focusing on teaching career skills and professional development. Currently they are producing courses in the areas of Law, Accounting, Corporate Governance, marketing, web application development, and now technology entrepreneurship.
Undoubtedly there’s a few schools of thought that might think this is a team in need of a significant reality check, as e-learning certainly isn’t anything new. Looking at a marketplace of established behemoths—and now well-funded startups such as Open English, who just announcing they raised $43 million of new capital; Coursera, which recently raised $16 million; Codecademy, which raised $10 million; and Khan Academy, which raised $5 million—the Thinkific team sees nothing but fragmentation and validation.
Having been chosen one of the top three startups (out of 30) at Launch Academy’s recent demo day suggests they might be onto something. Throw in a panel of six judges, who all know something about investing in early stage startups it’s going to be tough painting the Thinkific guys with the totally delusional brush.
Ideas are one thing, but the real story is the people behind them. About three years ago brothers, Matt and Greg started a part-time project offering online LSAT Test Prep courses (AlphaScore.com). They were well aware that online education and particularly test prep is a hyper-competitive industry. They learned, they were patient, they did break into the space, and most importantly figured out how to generate revenues while competing against industry giants like Kaplan.
As the course grew, the phone calls started coming from other instructors who wanted help producing and marketing courses online. Matt and Greg couldn’t ignore the demand, and decided to go “all-in” with AlphaScore. With AlphaScore generating enough revenue they quit their day jobs and started Thinkific.
Looking to make a difference, and create a lasting impact on the Vancouver startup community, Thinkific is taking their lessons learned, and working to grow the entrepreneurial knowledge base and skill set. In partnership with Launch Academy and a (soon to be announced) Canadian University they will be producing an educational program for entrepreneurs.
The program will focus on taking students from ideation to creating their own MVP (minimum viable product) while practising lean methodologies and agile web development. Many entrepreneurs don't know where or how to start, and many existing entrepreneurs are struggling to practice lean startup methods, and it’s a problem well worth solving.
Thinkific is attracting expert instructors to teach online lectures that are supplemented with hands-on workshops run at Launch Academy. The program can be taken online, while the hands-on personal assistance and workshops will only run at Launch Academy.
Students will graduate with a solid understanding of lean startup methodologies, and benefit from the introduction to agile web development using Ruby on Rails, and other key skills. Thinkific is on a mission that is nurturing, but most likely igniting the next wave of dynamic Vancouver startups.
Of course, this begs the bigger question, which cities are next? Stay tuned.