Founder Spotlight: Rajeeb Dey MBE, Learnerbly

Transform Founder Spotlight Series: Tigran Sloyan

Welcome to Transform’s Founder Spotlight Series, an exciting journey into the minds of innovative leaders who are disrupting the now and next of work.

In each Q&A-style article, we’ll introduce you to founders like Rajeeb Dey MBE, Founder and CEO of Learnerbly, who are redefining the boundaries of their industries with forward-thinking ideas and transformative approaches.

About Rajeeb

Rajeeb Dey is the Founder & CEO of Learnerbly, a curated marketplace of the best professional learning content including coaching, courses, conferences, books, and more. Rajeeb was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, and was appointed as a Member of the British Empire for Services to Entrepreneurship. He holds a First Class Honors from the University of Oxford in Economics & Management.

About Learnerbly

Founded in 2016, Learnerbly is the L&D marketplace that gives employees access to expertly curated content from 200+ of the best learning content providers (including courses, books, coaches, e-learning subscriptions, and much more) empowering them to own their learning journey in the way that fits their learning preferences and role requirements. Employers only pay for content consumed rather than subscribing employees to enterprise-wide content that doesn’t get used, which sees higher ROI, with 4X+ industry levels of engagement (at 40-60% per month) across 200+ clients including the likes of Flutter, CircleCI, King.com and HelloFresh.

Let’s dive into Rajeeb’s founder story, and learn firsthand about his inspirations, challenges, and breakthroughs that marked his path to success.

Rajeeb Dey MBE- Founder and CEO, Learnerbly, Transform Founder Spotlight

The Startup Journey

Q: What gave you the idea to start Learnerbly?

A: Having helped thousands of employers hire great talent in my previous business, Enternships (a jobs marketplace for interns and graduates), I turned my attention to how to develop and retain top talent. Employees want to know how their employers will be investing in their growth. Many businesses do not have a Learning and Development team and if they do, they cannot be experts in all business aspects. How do they begin to sift through the content out there and choose the best resources for employees?

I also felt that there was no quality control in the world of professional development, anyone can be a coach or trainer. For example, if you want to improve your public speaking, where do you go? While I have been lucky to benefit from a trusted community of fellow founders whom I could ask, I realized most people in business don’t have such a trusted network of peers. This sparked the idea for a curated marketplace for professional development.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the early stages?

A: As a VC-backed company fundraising is always challenging, even more so in the current climate. We are fortunate to have a great roster of investors but it doesn’t make the process any less difficult or enjoyable! Also as a non-technical and solo founder, finding the right people to work with early on to bring my vision to life was important. Finding a good CTO and COO has been important to complement my own skill set which is more on the sales and marketing side.

More recently however, the challenges are around how to scale and evolve our culture as we expand particularly into markets such as the US (being a UK HQ’d company.) That involves me spending far more time out in the US and speaking at conferences such as Transform.

Product Development

Q: Who benefits from Learnerbly?

A: Both employees and employers.

Learnerbly recognizes that employees learn in different ways. Some like to read books, others prefer to watch a video, while others may want to listen to a podcast. Corporate learning to date has been dominated by one method – e-learning videos delivered by a single vendor – such as LinkedIn Learning. With Learnerbly employees can choose what and how they learn across a whole plethora of topics from engineering to well-being from the best providers, including Pluralsight, Masterclass, Amazon Books, New York Times, Headspace, and more.

Employers no longer need to manage enterprise-wide subscriptions to multiple vendors and hope that employees use them. Instead, they can bring in Learnerbly and let employees choose and pay for content at the point of need.

Q: Why is this so important?

A: According to the World Economic Forum, 23% of global jobs are set to change due to flux in technology such as AI and automation. We need a reskilling revolution. At the same time, there is such an oversaturation of content, the cost of employees spending company money and time on inappropriate learning content is significant. By enabling employees to identify the right opportunities as reviewed by AI, peers, and experts we can ensure we upskill the world’s knowledge workers to be prepared in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Q: What are some examples of companies leveraging Learnerbly?

A: Our impact spans across 200 employers, including big names like IDEO, Bazaarvoice, Epic Games, and King.com. Based on reviews from 450+ people on G2, our average review score is 4.4/5, and we have been recognized as Mid-Market Leaders for eLearning Content and Learning Experience Platforms (LXP).

It was particularly inspiring to read this article where we heard firsthand from Robert at one of our clients Flutter who said, “Since the launch of Learnerbly, it really has brought back a sense of purpose for me to think of my self-development again and put myself back in a positive direction outside of work. I’ve managed to apply for a course, books, and get back onto language lessons I started last year so all in all it’s been super helpful”.

Clients use Learnerbly not only as a way of providing a more engaging and effective workplace learning solution (one that employees actually use) but they also highlight it as part of their Rewards & Benefits proposition on Careers pages.

Q: What have you learned from your users and customers so far?

A: How many people enjoy reading books! It turns out, there’s a bit of screen fatigue going on, especially after back-to-back video calls. To then be subjected to hours of e-learning on a screen and have no other option can be draining. Due to the multi-modal nature of our platform (books, conferences, podcasts, articles, and more), we see a huge demand for non-screen-based learning options such as books or audio-based learning. 

I have also learned that expectations and benchmarks in L&D are woefully low. The industry has been acclimated to accept engagement levels of 10% as good. With Learnerbly however, we’re seeing 40-60% engagement and 95%+ activation. We want to define a new standard in enterprise learning and raise quality and expectations in the process. 

Scaling & Growth

Q: How do you build a strong company culture while scaling the business?

A: To ensure that our open and empowering philosophy remains intact, we have invested heavily in our people processes from the outset. From the early days, we were keen to listen to employee feedback and make real-time adjustments. The process will become even more interesting and complex as we embark on expanding our team in the US!

Also, as a remote-first company, it’s important to create moments of connection. We do this either via regular All-Hands as well as at least twice in-person company-wide gatherings. Teams are also given ‘connection’ budgets to bring their specific teammates together or find innovative ways for them to connect (whether it be online or in person).

I think it’s also important to recognize that companies evolve. Accordingly, you may need to revisit your values and ways of working to ensure it’s fit for purpose. We have literally just revamped our values to represent a new way of operating from 2024 which we shared at our company strategy day in person with everyone earlier this month.

Fundraising

Q: How do you maintain strong relationships with your investors and optimize their contributions?

A: We send a quarterly newsletter to all investors where we give an update but also have some requests/asks. We also have regular board meetings (used to be monthly but as of this year have shifted to bi-monthly.) 

Q: What advice do you have to similarly situated founders as they begin fundraising? 

A: Start developing your network early on. If you have an aspiration to start something, start socializing the idea with people. Speak to experts and advisors. The saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is sadly true. Make that to your advantage. Connections can shortcut your route to success, whether that be winning your first client or getting access to your first investor. It’s never too early or too late to start developing your network. The key is not to fixate on what you can get from contacts, but also what you can give. Find ways to add value to your network. I’m a big believer in paying it forward. My first seed investor was someone I’d known many years prior when he was a founder himself; similarly, some of our early clients were people whom I knew from previous paths.

Team Building & Leadership

Q: What are your strategies for attracting and retaining talent?

A: Having a transparent culture. We have shared our employee handbook from the outset and have an ‘open source People Hub’ where we share all our people processes with the community. We also ensure that we regularly run monthly pulse surveys and wider engagement surveys so that we’re abreast of sentiment amongst our colleagues at all times. As an impact-driven business, I think we also attract people who are keen to make a difference and are inspired by our mission to upskill the world’s knowledge workers. 

Q: What leadership skills do you believe are critical in the current environment? 

A: Empathy is one of the most important skills to have, especially in a remote/hybrid world. You won’t be able to pick up on the nonverbal cues as easily so you need to be hyper-aware of what’s going on with your colleagues and team

Resilience is another – there’s no doubt that the macroeconomic climate has been extremely turbulent since 2021 and the COVID outbreak. This has been followed by wars in Ukraine, the Middle East and recessionary pressures in markets such as the UK and the US. Leaders have had to adapt throughout, make adjustments, and restructure in many cases. Throughout, leaders have to demonstrate resilience to help navigate these challenging times.

Marketing & Branding

Q: How do you differentiate your brand from competitors?

A: By having a unique proposition. We’re the only platform in our space that gives clients access to such a broad range of curated resources ranging from books, courses, conferences, subscriptions, and more. We’re not afraid to be bold – one of our core company values. This manifests in our colors, and our language – we’re definitely the ‘challenger’ and underdogs in the L&D space. We use statements such as “workplace learning that actually works” (for example at our stand at Transform last year) because our engagement metrics speak for themselves; people leaders are always surprised by the reaction from employees when using Learnerbly.

Challenges & Lessons Learned

Q: Can you share any specific lessons or mistakes you made during the startup journey and how you overcame them?

A: The issue is sometimes how we define ourselves. We’re a learning marketplace which is a new concept in many ways. We’re not an LMS and we have elements of a Learning Experience Platform (without being a conventional LXP), so sometimes it’s easier to say what we’re not. The thing is, we’re carving out our own niche in the industry, creating a whole new category that sets us apart. 

In the early days as you’re hustling to get business, sometimes it’s tempting to try and be all things to all people. As a result, you lose your own USP and it becomes impossible to differentiate. Early on we had interest from some larger enterprise clients which was flattering. However, they were trying to influence our roadmap in a way that wasn’t conducive to the direction of travel. An important lesson for me was to know when to part ways with clients. As an early-stage company that can be hard but it’s important to say no and be true to your vision.

Subsequently, I have gotten a lot better at saying no to companies and being clear on who our ‘ideal customer’ really is. 

Q: What advice do you have for other founders?

A: Don’t be afraid to say no. If you truly believe in what you’re doing it’s better to turn down clients versus trying to mold yourself and build to the needs of one or two specific ones. Once you become the best at what you’ve set out to do the clients will often come to you and you’ll be clear on your “ICP” (ideal customer profile).

Secondly, always be building your network. Whether it be for introductions to investors, talent, or clients the wider your network the better. Think about how you keep it active and add value and by doing so you will reap the benefits yourself in the process.

Industry and Market Insights

Q: What is one significant trend or prediction that you believe will drive the transformation of work?

A: Unsurprisingly – the impact of AI. It’s moving at lightning speed, making it tough to keep up. Learning content becomes outdated almost as soon as it’s out there. Yet, the impact on our lives and work is undeniable. The best we can do is be curious and open-minded, embrace it to augment our work and help drive efficiencies rather than be afraid of its impact.

Company Vision

Q: What’s next for you and Learnerbly?

A: We’re doubling down on our US expansion and building out the team there. We’re also fully embracing the role of AI in providing personalized recommendations and broadening the access employees have to the best-of-breed content (wherever it may come from.) We’ll also be ensuring we delve deeper around the skills employees are developing and how these connect with company goals and priorities. We have some exciting developments up our sleeve for our product so watch this space!

Q: What would you like to say to People leaders who are thinking of using Learnerbly? 

A: Try it out – you won’t regret it! It’s remarkable how many times I’ve heard lately “I’ve been in the space for 15+ years and never have I seen a platform that has been so well received by our employees.” This is music to my ears and something we pride ourselves on. If you’re thinking about how you can create a vibrant and high-performing learning culture in a remote or hybrid world of work, get in touch with us! 

On a Personal Note

Q: Describe your perfect day when you aren’t working.

A: Spending time with my family and friends; I’m quite a foodie so I like eating out. I’m getting into personal fitness and meditation a lot more now too. I’m also a sucker for mindless TV believe it or not – a guilty pleasure would be Selling Sunset! 

Q: What is your personal mantra?

A: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi

See Rajeeb and the Learnerbly Team at Transform 2024! Join us for engaging conversations and community as we transform the now and next of work – together.

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Mark your calendar for March 11-13, 2024, at Wynn Las Vegas. Sign up to stay in the loop and we’ll let you know when registration opens.