How a misunderstanding changed our business model

Our team is developing, an online peer-learning and problem-solving tool for students to make learning easier.  With our web app you never have to be alone with your problem. It’s like Stack Overflow for universities! online learning tool will make learning easier for you. Stay tuned for beta test in Fall 2014!

We visited Learnways with Indie Pale Games, Kiesus learning and Animat teams on Academic Action Bootcamp in Stockholm. We had truly insightful meeting with Nils Carlberg who’s the company’s sales director. He was fantastic and within first five minutes he was telling stories about his kids and visits at a summer cottage at Mäntyharju and listing words and phrases in Finnish he had learned. Everyone at the Learnways were so snälla!

We had coffee and freshly baked buns we had brought from a bakery near by and discussed about the company’s values, way of working, customers and projects. Oh boy, those projects were so awesome! They really deliver the message with passion and quality. It’s efficient, emotional, pretty, informative and that sound atmosphere in their videos was epic! We talked for two hours whereas at least I was prepared for short 20min company preview. He was genuinely interested in our ideas and provided valuable insights and advice based on solid experience.

So how the misunderstanding led to a whole new perspective in our business model? Each of us had a short pitch on our ideas for the Learnways sales director. He commented on them and provided tips and very good questions. When it was my time he got immediately interested in our idea. He was asking about the schedule, about acquiring the critical mass of users and about the revenue streams. But then he said this to me: “I see a fundamental problem in your concept. Students are constantly learning the latest technologies whereas the companies often rely on the old way of doing things. When they have an issue, how can the students tackle their problems if they are not familiar with the old technologies?” There was short pause when my brain was trying to connect the dots: He really misunderstood my idea, the universities are the customers and the tool is only meant to help the students to learn. The companies are not involved in any way. But wait a sec! Why not? And I answered: “I haven’t thought about it. That is a good question!”

For the rest of the meeting I was just concentrating to this whole new aspect in our business model. What if the students solved the companies’ problems in addition to their own? The companies could benefit greatly from the big academic community whereas the students and universities could actually make profit instead of paying for the service. And we would get our share in between.

People have told me tens of times that universities do not have the money to buy our application even if it would be very beneficial for them. The competition of money in academia is fierce nowadays. This new aspect actually transforms this issue into an opportunity. Who knows, maybe this could be a new way for universities to receive more funding…?


Mira, Mari, Tom and Oskari at Learnways with Nils (in the middle)

Mira, Mari, Tom and Oskari at Learnways with Nils (in the middle)

P.S. Nils’s advice: Never go for the “dirty money” (=investors, soft loans, subsidies, grants) unless you really have to. They have their own agenda and they try to steer your company towards their own goals. The best way to fund your business is the customers’ money!