In times of collective hardship, we all have an opportunity to show our greatest capacity for strength and compassion for others.
The humanitarian COVID-19 crisis has truly brought out the best in some startups and highlighted their ability to act in line with their values. Atlassian expanded free access to software work management tools to help businesses cope with remote working last month, while Zoom has offered K-12 schools free use of its video conferencing platform so that classes can continue in the shutdown period.
We’d like to highlight an offer from an education provider, Academy Xi, that is born from a genuine intent to help. It’s offering free courses online courses to employees of impacted businesses to help them upskill and prepare for a post-COVID-19 world. This is aimed at companies that have either stood down employees, reduced employee salaries, or made redundant more than 10% of their workforce.
In what is perhaps one the hardest periods in recent history to operate, Academy Xi is doubling down on their mission to ensure nobody is left behind as innovation rapidly changes the jobs market and the way we work.
One of the reasons we invested in Academy Xi was their passion for their mission and their ability to blend it with commercial savvy. It’s great to see them passionately pursuing their mission, despite adversity.
We asked founder, Ben Wong, about this program (which you can sign up for here), and how COVID-19 is impacting Academy Xi.
Question: Tell us a bit about what you are offering (what courses, and how long they take) and how it will benefit those in the community?
BEN: We’re offering foundational courses in digital marketing, user experience design, product management, service design and user interface design. They teach the fundamentals of these in-demand skill sets so that you can get a taste of this potential career or skill builder.
The courses are self-paced so you can do them when you want. They take anywhere between 20–50 hours to complete. The idea is to offer these programs so that employees can keep engaged, build some new skills, and become more employable. If they find it’s actually something they want to pursue they could always pursue further learning and gain some more practical experience.
We believe the community and businesses need to engage people. With extra time and the right mindset, there is never a better time to build one’s capability.
Question: How has COVID-19 impacted Academy Xi?
BEN: Initially, COVID-19 had a big impact in March on new enrolments as people panicked, but most people who had enrolled in face-to-face courses were more than happy to study remotely. In fact, customer satisfaction scores have increased, which is fantastic.
We’ve now seen an increase in enquiries and enrolments in April, which is great. We’ve reduced our costs significantly, restructured and redeployed our resources, leveraged support from the government, but managed to retain everyone in some capacity, which was humbling for the team. People are becoming more comfortable and ready to prepare for the new world.
When I take a step back, COVID-19 has forced us to bring forward our priorities of growing online and helping companies adapt. We’re now going through a digital transformation to become an industry-leading, digital-first learning company, ready for the new economy. We’re excited by the opportunities the crisis has brought.
Question: Have you put purpose ahead of profit here? Does this situation and your mission warrant it?
Yes, 100% we’re not charging for these programs for companies that fit the profile. Fortunately, we’ve already invested in the products, so our marginal costs of enabling this are low.
So despite market conditions, we’re putting purpose at the forefront and support companies and people in need. This aligns with our vision and what we believe in.
Question: Finally, what advice would you give to other founders about offering similar initiatives?
BEN: My advice is, we’re in unprecedented times, doing good, is good business. If you have products or resources that don’t consume too much additional variable costs, share them, help others and good intentions will go a long way.
Focus on areas that don’t significantly cannibalise your current income streams, if your business is currently being negatively affected by this crisis.
Small Steps Vol. 57: Interactive maps of future climate scenarios 🗺️; impact insights from gamers 🎮; and fiction creating reality 📺
Giant Leap's impact thesis for Who Gives A Crap, the sustainable toilet paper company that builds toilets.