When Felix Dibelka worked as a consultant for a wholesaler line, one of his tasks was to develop a seminar system for skilled professionals like locksmiths or carpenters. That was when he learned that there is a huge gap between the learning we do in schools, and the useful training for professionals. “While they were under enormous time pressure”, he recalls, “I remember they all brought tablet PCs along – back in 2012.”
Together with co-founder (and now NeuKurs’ creative director) Winni Ransmayr, he designed a platform that brings small business owners together with business coaches.
“I saw a lot of sole proprietor businesses emerge,” Felix says. “All of them were experts in their field, but most of them needed training in other aspects of their business. Educating themselves with old-fashioned learning methods simply took too much time out of their already busy schedules, so we decided to bring trainers and trainees together with the use of modern technology and the idea of micro-learning.”
The demand for micro-learning
Users expect high-quality content if they are asked to pay for it, and NeuKurs guarantees that kind of quality.
According to Felix, there are more than 8,000 Austrian coaches for business topics offering their services on the market. On the other side of the deal, the chamber of commerce lists over 250,000 one-person businesses & SME (exact numbers here)
The concept of micro-learning is in breaking up knowledge into very small and easily digestible pieces of information that can be absorbed in a matter of minutes. Those pieces are called “micro-learnings” – meaningful bits that answer a concrete question. Delivery of information is done via video that can be watched on any smartphone or tablet. It is learning on the go – five minutes spent with your smartphone and can make a difference when you prepare for a pitch the next day.
As Felix points out, the content itself is produced to meet the highest possible standards in terms of video-quality and professional presentation. “We have to stand out against all the free content out there. Users expect high-quality content if they are asked to pay for it, and NeuKurs guarantees that kind of quality,” he is convinced.
But he also says that micro-learning cannot be a full replacement for seminars. “Learning is always, amongst other things, a social experience.” What NeuKurs provides is a valuable add-on and a refresher to things learned in a seminar.
Financial and professional help
Photo credit: NeuKurs
Like many other startups, the NeuKurs founders found financing the project to be quite the challenge. “We decided quickly to apply for several grants, our favorite was the AWS pre-seed program”, says Felix, who likes Austria as a place to establish a company because of a well functioning support system for new entrepreneurs.
The AWS pre-seed program assists companies in their starting phase not only by granting loans, awarding subsidies over a two-year period, but also provides support in the form of specific information, advisory and other services. Felix and his company, who were part of the program during 2013 and 2014, remembers working with the AWS as very helpful.
“The people are very professional. They ask the important questions and usually offer very good advice. To us, it was certainly a huge recognition of our idea, particularly because that recognition is uttered by professional business people. Experts see your idea as valid and worth investing money in. I remember we had to present our idea in front of a board of 14 people – that is an experience in itself.”
The biggest recognition, Felix is quick to add, comes from the customers: the coaches on one hand, and the learners on the other.
In the two years the program applies there is constant dialogue between the AWS and their grantee. Money is given out according to a specific milestone plan. After the pre-seed phase, companies can apply for a seed-grant which is like a bank loan that has to be paid back. That is what the NeuKurs-founders did.
To keep in mind: solvency and focus
There are two main pieces of advice that Felix would give to young founders: “First, keep your liquidity in sight. A grant won’t help you out if you are no longer able to pay your bills. And second, stay focused on what the market tells you. Especially in the field of learning, things like regulations or the competition can change quickly, so your business plan needs to be flexible, too.”
And most importantly: “You have to be fully convinced of your idea and your abilities. Working together with others is a good thing, but as an entrepreneur you are responsible for your business, which means the final decision is yours.”
To Felix, that ability for decision-making is where the founder’s gen really shows.
Yet to come for NeuKurs
By the end of 2015 we want to have implemented a strong gamification aspect to our learning system [and] strengthen the social aspect of learning.
Felix and his team – cofounder Winnie Ransmayer, one didactics expert, two freelancers in the office and “a lot of freelancers and interns who do project-based work” – are currently planning changes to the structure of the content they offer on their website.
“By the end of 2015, we want to have implemented a strong gamification aspect to our learning system. It can be a gratification aspect for units learned and memorized, for example. And we want to strengthen the social aspect of learning via NeuKurs.” Maybe users could share their learning-achievements with others, thereby motivating themselves and their peers.
And, as always, there is growth of the company on the to-do list. “But more importantly, our content should always become lighter, more concise, more to the point, more practical in its approach – because that is the trend in learning. There is a big difference between the learning habits of a 40-year-old and someone who is now 20.” Experts call it “knowledge transfer for the generation Y” and see it as the next big challenge for the field of education.
This story is brought to you in partnership with Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws)