"Employees to dictate the future of work": Degreed' CEO
You have completed one year as the CEO for Degreed. How has the journey been so far and what have been the key learnings for you?
Well, the most fascinating thing is that we are growing in terms of people and our company has doubled since the time I have taken over as the CEO.
As an organization, we have to work to continue to communicate that everyone in the company understands what they do on a daily basis. I am working hard to make sure that everyone stays aligned. It’s okay to go off track sometimes, but one should always bounce back and respond to know what we are trying to do as an organization. I think David Blake (the former CEO and Co-Founder of the company) and I have always operated as a great team, where his approach was of the founder, mission, vision, conviction and I was into mapping to the needs of the market and operating.
It is just amazing that as fast as we grow, we have to continue to communicate over and over again to employees so that they understand what we are doing. To me operationally it has been an excellent year. We’ve grown a good hundred percent since last year. For me, it is more on the softer side, how hard we have to work, and so on.
You mentioned about David and how you took charge as the CEO. How different is your leadership style as that of him and what changes have you brought in the organization?
We were on the board of directors of the company for the last five and a half years and Dave is just a special partner that I’ll ever have again in my career where we both had no egos. It did not matter what our titles were. At times we even talked about giving up our titles because it wasn’t necessary to us; we had never even talked about me being a CEO before he told me about his plans about going into politics.
I believe success is like two board engines where you have two people who combine the entire team and if any one of those engines outpace the other, the company would fail. If Dave had built the company himself, without getting me and others, it would have still been a consumer business, without maybe debatably a robust revenue model. If I had done it, it would have been a middling better version of a learning management system. Together we got to a place that was disruptive and pragmatic. I would say mostly because of the leadership of Dave and Eric Sharp, the co-founder of the company, we are probably the most mission aligned company today.
India is well ahead of others and just point blank when it comes to creativity and skills than most other countries
You are upbeat about the future of work and upskilling. Where do you think the future of work is going?
I believe most learning and HR executives should address the importance of skills identification. I think that it is more about the consumerization of learning and skill building. The future of work will be dictated by what the employees want and what their needs are. The future of work will be dictated by consumerization. Learning is one of the last few categories to go consumerized.
How is Degreed doing in terms of revenue? Are you happy with the numbers?
It has been an exceptional year and a half for the company and we are in the top tier. Our growth is accelerating and we grew more than 100 percent. Most companies have a hard time maintaining the metrics. Right now we have a net promoter score of 69 which when compared with other enterprise learning applications is exceptionally high. It is because we have maintained that customer focus, and have been able to make the clients happy and successful.
Is it correct that Degreed has crossed more than $1.4 million in India and overall in Asia, it is more than $5 million in terms of revenue?
Yes. We don’t disclose revenue as it is a private company, but you are certainly in the range.
What potential do you see in the Indian market for Degreed?
It is significant. European and the Asia Pacific markets are the two fastest-growing regions, but I expect our growth in India and Asia to accelerate. No doubt that the base in India is smaller, but it’s growing faster, and there is a reason why we are increasing our team members in India.
I’d say the Indian market and Asia, in general, is one to two years behind the adoption curve of the US. The difference is they are not one to two years behind in the education curve. When you flip it to skills, India is well ahead of everyone else in the world. India is point blank thinking more creatively around skills and skills credentials than most other countries.
What will be your three key focus areas for Degreed in India and Asia?
My primary focus is to have all of our clients happy and most of them are very happy. I can’t say that all of them are as successful as we would like them to be because we have very high standards for it. Second, we need to build up our team here in India with the best of the talent available. Third, we have to execute our work in such a manner that there should be a huge gap for our competitors to fill in.
I believe most learning and HR executives should address the importance of skills identification which is more about the consumerization of learning and skill building
Is the next round of investment knocking the door for Degreed and what are your expansion plans in India?
We raised more money in our series C funding than we needed to. The actual number was $62 million. We acquired Pathgather and did use some of our capital to do that. Right now the market is hitting the steep phase of its growth curve and is doing so globally. I also see several opportunities for additional acquisitions that Degreed could do in the near future. We have growth targets of more than 100 percent in Asia this year and India this year is a big piece of it. We need to build a brand and establish ourselves here as we have in the US.
Where do you see Degreed in the coming three years in India and Asia?
I certainly expect it to be one of our three most significant regions in the world, including North America and Europe. I hope that we have dozens if not hundreds of amazing client partners that we can tell the stories about. I expect to have an office here at that point and have a full blown top to bottom customer support enablement. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up making a couple of acquisitions of companies that could help us accelerate things.