Headquarters: New York City, USA
Vertical: Professional Development, Skills Assessment, Lifelong Learning
Tech: Web App
Introduce your startup and give a short description of what you are doing.
SkillSoniq provides an easy way for users to discover, improve and showcase their professional skills through quick adaptive tests, sophisticated analytics, and personalized course recommendations. It provides a unique way for users to get connected with online courses and is the world’s first platform that enables users to track and share their online learning activities, making them more employable and market ready.
Who are the founders, how did you meet, what are your different roles in the startup.
SkillSoniq’s Core Team consists of Abhinav Verma, Krishna Bala and Yulia Nikonova. Abhinav Verma founded SkillSoniq in late 2015, and has over 5 years of experience in the Education and Training Industry. Before that, Abhinav was an Investment Banker on Wall Street. While Abhinav helps with all aspects of business, he is primarily focused on front end and back end Sales and Marketing activities for SkillSoniq.
Abhinav met Krishna through the New York EdTech network, and they instantly connected on their vision to make sense of the thousands of online courses currently available to users, in a simple, intuitive way.
Krishna is a data scientist and software engineer with a proven ability to build high performance analytics systems. He has over 20 years of Tech experience developing optimization algorithms and analyzing big data, and manages Tech Development at SkillSoniq.
Abhinav and Yulia met at a Startup event in New York, and Yulia was impressed with Abhinav’s vision for SkillSoniq – Yulia is helping develop the Finance Organization at SkillSoniq, and is a Certified Management Accountant by profession.
How was the idea for your startup born?
Abhinav hails from India, and taught students and corporate professionals Microsoft Office skills in the classroom for 2 years, before he realized that all of the teaching was a waste unless he had a way to assess students’ knowledge gaps before training, so he could personalize his training in the classroom. Furthermore, he sensed that there had got to be a way for students to track the amount of learning shared in the classroom, other than having them go through one off assessments at the end of training. That was the genesis of SkillSoniq.
SkillSoniq allows users to quantify all their learning in the form of a “Skill Score”, which changes based on how much a user and his/her network of peers learn. Personalized course recommendations are provided to users based on their knowledge graph. Users can now compare their skills with peers in real-time, and follow their peers’ learning activities. With the idea of personalized learning, SkillSoniq believes they can solve broader problems in the Education & Training Industry, such as declining corporate training budgets, fragmentation of the online training industry, and lack of effective tools to understand existing knowledge gaps of users. SkillSoniq tries to solve all of these problems through quick, adaptive tests, sophisticated big data analytics and personalized course recommendations.
What is the main problem in education that you aim to solve.
Users currently do not have a way to discover, effectively improve and showcase their skills acquired through online courses. SkillSoniq connects these users with course providers in a unique way where they can discover, improve and showcase their skills to peers and employers, making them more market ready.
For example, if you were to take a course from Udemy.com or Lynda.com, how could you showcase to potential employers how much you learned from the course? You will not have a lot of options other than listing courses on your resume. SkillSoniq provides an easy way for users to create their own knowledge graphs and skill trends, which they can share with potential employers, as a part of their professional resume.
Who are your main competitors? What sets you apart from them?
We compete with self-paced online course providers and online assessment companies. Some of our competitors are listed below:
Open Sesame: Online marketplace for corporate training
Udemy.com: Online marketplace for training
Lynda.com: Online course provider
Isograd.com: B2B MS Office Test provider
We are different from competitors as we are purely a B2C player, while most of the online training and assessment providers focus on a B2B model where they aim to sell courses and tests in bulk. Currently, no firm provides adaptive tests, analytics and personalized courses for millennials the way we do. With so many courses being published every day, we chose not to create our own courses, but partner with existing content providers to curate their content, and build analytics and assessments around their training.
In which markets / regions are you active. What markets / regions are next.
We are active in the United States since it represents 50% of the global self-paced online training market; We plan to launch in India, China and Parts of Africa after the US. These are regions where online training is growing at rates as high as 55% CAGR.
Who is your target audience.
Millennials looking for a job and/or aspiring to become more effective workers through lifelong learning
How do you engage with your target audience. How do you convert them into users of your product.
We currently offer testing and analytics services in MS Office products for free to all our users to encourage them to create profiles on our platform and discover their skills. We also run promotions where users get their first course for free. Once users start building their knowledge graph on our platform, we begin to cross-sell other personalized courses to them through which we earn a commission. Users are able to see how they perform versus their peers, and are encouraged to purchase courses from our site to improve their knowledge graph and marketability to potential employers.
How many users / downloads does your service have?
2,000 unique visitors
What is your business model. How much does your product / service cost.
We currently offer testing and analytics services in MS Office products for free to all our users to encourage them to create profiles on our platform. Once users start building their knowledge graph on our platform, we begin to cross-sell personalized courses to them through which we earn a commission. We charge a 20% – 40% commission to all our content providers on courses sold by us, and have launched our 1st product category of MS Office products. We currently offer ~1,000 High Quality MS Office courses and have secured partnerships with 7 of the largest MS Office content providers across the world.
If you raised funding, how much did you raise. Who are your investors. If not, are you planning to raise funding.
We are currently in the Family and Friends Round, and are seeking $300,000 – $500,000 in seed funding to expand into other product categories (outside of MS Office), expand our team, and improve customer experience on our website
Are there milestones you are especially proud of and would like to share.
a) Within 3 months of launching our prototype in late 2015, we have 80% customer satisfaction rates, and a 30% conversion rate (meaning out of 100 users who were shown course recommendations, 30 ended up purchasing a course)
b) In 3 months, we already have partnerships with 7 MS Office content providers, while still being in Prototype stage
c) We were voted as one of the best EdTech Startups by 37Angels, one of the largest EdTech VC firms based in New York
d) We were selected as one of the 5 most promising EdTech start-ups of 2016 by Knewton, a powerhouse in the world of adaptive learning for the K-12 vertical.
What are the next steps in growing your startup.
a) Expand Product Categories to Tech, Project Management, Foreign Language and Industry focused courses
b) Improve Customer Experience on the Website – Build our proprietary Learning Management System, add cool social features which will allow users to connect with each other on our platform, and refine our testing and recommendation algorithms