Skillshare's VP Growth Explains how They've Accelerated Growth by Sparking Creativity for Millions of Online Learners

Episode 35 November 12, 2020 00:49:11
Skillshare's VP Growth Explains how They've Accelerated Growth by Sparking Creativity for Millions of Online Learners
The Breakout Growth Podcast
Skillshare's VP Growth Explains how They've Accelerated Growth by Sparking Creativity for Millions of Online Learners

Nov 12 2020 | 00:49:11

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Show Notes

In this episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast, Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr speak with Kyle Jansen, Vice President of Growth at Skillshare, an online learning community that offers 30,000 classes focused on creative pursuits. As Covid-19 dramatically increased demand for online learning, Skillshare has leaned into a culture of experimentation where everyone in the organization is encouraged to contribute ideas to power growth.

Buoyed by a $66 million fundraising round in the midst of the global pandemic, Kyle explains that the already cash-flow positive organization is looking to accelerate growth on multiple fronts. From expanding its international presence to helping companies bring creativity to their entire workforces, Skillshare is looking to capitalize on the strong product/market fit the company has established by helping everyone from hobbyists looking for better ways to bake bread to professionals trying to add illustration skills to their resumes. 

Interestingly, much of Skillshare’s growth, product and funnel optimization efforts were outsourced up until 2019, and in this interview, we learn how that impacted the business. We also find out how influencer marketing has been a crucial growth lever, and how Skillshare’s mobile app fits into the company’s online learning ecosystem. 

Kyle says the company’s Chief Product Officer always talks about “Doing the Brilliant Basics,” and in this episode, we get a sense of just what that means as Skillshare builds its breakout growth success story.

We discussed:  

 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the breakout growth podcast, where Sean Ellis interviews, leaders from the world's fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here's your host Sean Ellis Speaker 1 00:00:25 Episode of the breakout growth podcast. Ethan Gar and I interview Kyle Jansen, vice president of growth at Skillshare. Skillshare is an online learning community offering 30,000 courses focused mostly on creativity. So for less than $10 a month, you can study anything from design illustration, photography to lifestyle content, like learning to brew. The perfect cup of coffee. Skillshare has actually raised $66 million during the COVID pandemic. As online learning has become really critical for both individuals and businesses around the world. In fact, skill shares community is about two thirds international and the company plans to continue to invest, to tune the product for these international audiences. Now they have a test learn culture that is really supportive of breakout growth, but interestingly until 2019 growth product and optimization was actually outsourced. So today it's all brought inside and they have a culture of continuously experimenting, using ideas harvested from across the company. Speaker 1 00:01:32 And that's that part of their culture is really critical. So data is at the heart of their process and they're really harvesting ideas from, from anyone in the company, as long as they can be modeled out and tested. So before we get started with this interview, I'd like to remind everyone to check out, go practice.io. This is the simulation-based learning program that I built with Olay Yaqoob and cough, a former data scientist at Facebook. It's going to really help you develop the data skills and product and marketing skills needed to become world-class at driving growth. So check it [email protected], but now let's jump in and find out what's driving breakout growth Speaker 0 00:02:13 Skillshare. Hi, Kyle, welcome to the breakout growth podcast. Hi, how is everyone? Speaker 1 00:02:28 Very good. So yeah, the everyone is that I'm actually joined by Ethan Gar again this week. In fact, he's going to be a regular going forward and, um, he provides a lot of insights for me with, with mobile growth in particular. And I, I read one article about Skillshare that actually said that you guys, uh, are really good on mobile. So I thought what a, what a good opportunity to help kick off Ethan being a regular on the, on the program as well. So, um, Ethan welcome as well. Hey, thank you. Hey, it's a, it's definitely Speaker 2 00:03:00 Good to be here and I'm super excited to chat with both of you. Speaker 1 00:03:02 Perfect. So, um, before we really dig into the whole growth story on Skillshare, it would be great. Uh, Kyle, if you could give us a introduction into really what, what Skillshare is and how it's different from some of the other learning online, Speaker 2 00:03:17 The platforms that are out there. Sure, sure. So yeah, skill shares and an online learning community, uh, where millions come together to explore their creativity. So we have, uh, about 30,000 online classes today, uh, really focused on, on the creative vertical. So everything in classes from design illustration, photography, um, as well as lifestyle content, um, like, uh, the best way to brew a cup of coffee. So, uh, something for everyone. Uh, and, and yeah, we're a subscription-based service where for, uh, less than $10 a month, you can get unlimited access to all of that content. So, uh, similar to the Netflix model. Speaker 1 00:03:58 Okay. And then is it a, um, is a marketplace, would you guys create all of that content yourself? Speaker 2 00:04:03 Yeah, so that's one of the interesting, I think differentiators about us from some of the other, uh, online, uh, learning competitors out there is that we're, uh, we are a dual sided marketplace. So we have, uh, we produce some of our, our content, uh, in house and, and that establishes really the type of programming that we're really trying to go after and, and what's core to our, our audience. Um, but we also have an open platform where anyone that's an expert in their creative field can teach something on Skillshare. So it's kind of a best of both worlds. And we see, um, benefits in both of those, those different content strategies. Speaker 1 00:04:42 Yeah. And then you do like a revenue share then with the, when, when you have the third party people teaching. Speaker 2 00:04:47 Exactly. So teachers get paid a royalty, uh, based on the minutes watched that they have in their class. So it's an engagement based, um, royalty payments. So it aligns obviously our incentives and, and with the teachers incentives as well. Speaker 1 00:05:03 Very cool. And then do you have any free courses or is it all paid? Speaker 2 00:05:06 Yeah, so we have about 1500 free courses. That was something we invested in, uh, heavily. And I think the early, uh, early time or early stages of skill shares growth. And, but we also offer a free trial to our premium subscription. And so that's that premium, um, subscription and catalog is where we've really invested a lot of time. So we've actually shifted away from the freemium model, given that we have that trial and that we give, um, users access to that. And there's incredible demand for, for that trial, um, over the free, the free, Speaker 1 00:05:40 That's how it seems as it seems really like, it is very much kind of that Netflix model where, um, in particular, I like that, that you're, you're paying out an engagement, not just on signing up for a course, but, you know, sticking with the course. Speaker 2 00:05:55 Exactly. Exactly. Do you ever sell Speaker 1 00:05:58 To businesses or is it mostly direct to consumer? Speaker 2 00:06:01 Yeah, so we are primarily direct to consumer. We started an enterprise business about three years ago now and have created a lot of, uh, demand and seen some, some really strong demand, especially, uh, in 2020 in this post kind of COVID world. Um, where, where, uh, companies are seeing the value of obviously having a creative workforce beyond just their creative teams and giving people that, that outlet to, uh, explore their creativity. So, uh, it's kind of interesting too. We're not a straight up a learning management system, like some of the other, um, online competitors like you to meet. For example, we kind of, uh, hover on both sides of that learning management system, as well as a perk or a benefit for other people that maybe, maybe aren't, you know, learning, uh, logo design or aren't on the marketing team. And so, uh, it's this really nice benefit we're seeing a lot of, a lot of companies get a lot of value out of it. So there's still work to be done on that side. That's where some of this, um, post fundraising, uh, financing is, is definitely getting invested into is building out more of those product features for our enterprise clients. So, um, you know, uh, employee reporting and things like that that allows them to get the most use of Skillshare as well. Speaker 1 00:07:21 Excellent. Well, so speaking of financing, it looks like you guys in the middle of a pandemic more than doubled your, uh, your, your total funding, which is, which is amazing bringing in a $66 million round. Um, so I guess that, that signals that you've actually done pretty well through the pandemic. Speaker 2 00:07:38 Yeah. So it's, it's an interesting time for sure. It's been a very interesting 2020. We were, we, uh, launched at a huge rebrand at the beginning of January and really, uh, really honed in on this, this target creative consumer that we were focused on. And we're seeing a lot of, uh, organic growth just from that, that brand shift and that brand focus. And then obviously the pandemic happened and, um, and we just saw this organic demand just come on the platform starting in middle of March, um, country by country. And it just really, uh, really scaled significantly since then. And so the, the fundraise was really opportunistic at the time. It was, we were cashflow positive, uh, today. So we were really approaching the res just as an opportunity to accelerate our growth. And so that's what we're, we're really focused on with, with the fundraisers to, to really expedite some of those, those growth levers. So things like international expansion, the enterprise business, um, as well as just investing more in the teacher side of the platform, that's an area that, um, we invested significantly early on to establish that, that supply and that strong community of teachers. Um, and we just need to continue to invest in that as we continue to scale. Awesome. Speaker 1 00:08:56 So as I, as I mentioned, one of the things that jumped out as I was looking into the businesses that it actually says that mobile has been something that's a fairly, a fairly important component of the business. Ethan, do you want to jump in and maybe do a little bit more digging in the mobile space there? Speaker 2 00:09:12 Yeah, sure. Kyle, I mean, I was generally curious, like how does mobile fit into the whole Skillshare ecosystem? Is it about driving interest? Is it about course consumption and engagement or where does it fit in and how has it grown over the last few years? Yeah, it's a great question. And I didn't touch on this earlier, but it speaks to kind of the, the Skillshare product and its differentiator. We are, um, an active based platform. You come on Skillshare and every, every class actually has a project associated with it. So you're learning a very specific skill, um, that you're, you're coming away with some end product that, uh, is a real differentiator for us. And, um, the mobile app plays a part into that experience. Um, and so, yeah, we've had a mobile app, um, for several years now. And, um, initially it has been really, it was a new user and acquisition growth driver for us today. Speaker 2 00:10:06 I think it makes up about 10 to 15% of all new users come through our mobile app initially. Um, and our goal is for it to really support that, that, um, that online learning experience. And so, um, some, some learning can happen, uh, while you're on the go, et cetera. Uh, so you might not be able to sit at your desk and actually work on a project. And so what we're investing in now is trying to make that, that mobile experience parody with our, our, uh, web based experience so that it can compliment, um, that user's journey into exploring their creativity governance. So you could have users coming either from mobile, into web or from web into mobile and using the certain using Skillshare for both. Does that make tracking complex for you guys? Like what kind of tools do you use for that? Yeah, it does. Speaker 2 00:10:59 It does. We use, um, AppsFlyer for some of that, that activation tracking, um, as well as we use mixed panel for a lot of our, uh, user engagement tracking. Um, and yeah, but it does, it does make things difficult. And I think that's a theme that, um, that I've seen just the value of investing in that data infrastructure is so crucial from a growth perspective, but also just from a general business perspective. And so we do see a lot of users, um, engaging coming on, signing up for Skillshare through the web experience, but then, um, they'll, they'll switch over to the mobile app and, and be bringing that into their kitchen as they're learning some, taking some class on, on baking or something like that. And so, um, being able to track that user has been, has been something we've been investing in, um, pretty significantly over the last year, I would say, do you feel like it's getting easier on that front? Speaker 2 00:11:53 Is it, uh, is it getting more complex as, you know, as the mobile world shifts as the, you know, we've had things like iOS 14 changes, is it, is it getting easier for you or is it a constant challenge? Yeah, I think it, I think it is a constant challenge, especially we are a global, a global business, two thirds of our users are from outside the U S. And so, um, the needs of those consumers in those different markets, iOS, uh, as well as on Android and, um, and investing in both of those apps, uh, as well as continually launching new features and experiences on the web platform and then trying to make sure that the mobile, uh, experiences is up to par with that. Yeah. I think it, I don't think it's gotten any, any easier, but, um, my, my mobile team might, might speak differently. Speaker 2 00:12:44 Right, right, right. And like you mentioned earlier minutes watched as being a key, a key KPI for you. Is that something you guys track both on mobile and web and, uh, do you look at how that's, how that's evolving over time? Yes. Yeah. So that's, that's a metric that we've been digging more and more into it's something we've, we've always tracked. Um, obviously looking at total minutes watched across the platform, but then cutting that every, every which way. And especially looking at that, um, that first experience with Skillshare is so crucial and building that habit and that, that online learning habit. And so, uh, we monitor that, that, uh, usage and in minutes watched on a pretty regular basis, especially during those first 30 to 60 days on the, on the platform. Speaker 1 00:13:31 So, yeah, I had one up question on, on the, uh, when you talked about mix panel and, uh, just access to that data. Do you have most of the people on your growth team that are, are pretty well versed in being able to pull their own data from those systems? Or are they leaning pretty heavily on, on analysts to do that? Speaker 2 00:13:49 Yeah, so I would say, um, Skillshare is a pretty analytics driven culture. Um, I obviously come from a finance background and, um, and so brought, uh, some of that analytical rigor on the, on the marketing team. And so our channel managers are all, um, familiar, familiar with SQL and Mixpanel, and they're running their own analysis. We have invested in, in a data, um, centralized data team that is obviously, uh, working on much more sophisticated analysis and, um, runs our, our class algorithms and, uh, helps us with obviously AB testing and such on the growth team. Um, but no, every, I would say every product manager, uh, every growth marketer is, is able to run those basic analysis around, uh, acquisition engagement, et cetera, within mix panel within our own database. And so, um, yeah, that's been very, yeah, it's been very beneficial to the growth team and the culture, I think we've on the growth team. Speaker 1 00:14:52 Yeah. What did, what do you think is the key benefit of, of having the team being empowered to do that themselves and having skills to do that? Speaker 2 00:15:00 I think it just velocity and then I think insights, um, the velocity, I think just, it just happens so much more rapidly. The changes, um, when my, my search manager can, can analyze different, um, different CTR trends that she's seeing in, in some of our ads and, and how that translates to, uh, user engagement down funnel, tying that with our backend data is incredibly powerful. Um, I think we saw that with our, with our influencer program, we were seeing, um, influencers when they talk about Skillshare, we're mentioning, um, naturally their experience with Skillshare and what they, what classes got them excited, what they were really interested in learning. And we saw this direct, um, engagement correlation with that. And so, um, that was something that was, was sussed out by our influencer manager. And now we've built the data infrastructure around that, so that we can actually track that and start to, um, feature the types of the high quality class content that we have in a specific subject back to that creator so that they can feature, uh, our top quality content to their, their user base. Speaker 2 00:16:10 So, um, yeah, it's stuff like that. And I think it's also just, um, the, the culture we've developed around testing, where we have a, a pitch meeting where, um, anyone in the company can come and pitch a new idea. Um, but that idea needs to go through a modeling phase. And so they need to come with, with data ready that shows, Hey, this could potentially be a high impactful test. Um, so instrumenting that data and making it accessible in a way that anyone from a designer and engineer a marketer, uh, can access it and pull out insights that they have is, is Speaker 1 00:16:48 Awesome. Yeah. I really want to dig into that, but probably before sort of the process of how you drive that improvement and just, just figuring out the overall kind of, uh, uh, how you work together as a team to do that, it would be good to just get kind of a high level with all the success that you've had. What do you, what do you think the key factors are that are, that are driving that success? Speaker 2 00:17:10 Yeah. Uh, that's a great question. I think it's a few things I would say, uh, when I joined Skillshare, what attracted me most to, uh, to Skillshare initially was just this, this organic brand and community that the company developed. They were such, they had such a, a differentiated position in the way that we created our content, how engaging it was just how, um, cutting edge it was. And, and, and, um, and on top of that, they had this community already established between teachers and students, where they were engaging on the platform. Students were talking to other students and they were creating these, these, uh, lifelong connections that, that were just incredibly powerful. And so I joined at a time when, when the company just needed help, um, accelerating that and, and driving growth and getting the product into the hands of millions of new users. Speaker 2 00:18:03 And so that, that made my job that much more exciting. Um, so I would say that would be first and foremost, I think, um, after that, I think as we saw with the COVID pandemic, that there's just incredible, um, product market fit at a time when, when this market is growing rapidly, when the, um, the, obviously the online learning community, but also the creative community, um, where you have like 75% of Americans participate in some creative hobby. And so whether you're someone that, uh, is a creative professional, and you're trying to, to elevate your, your career, your career and, and really grow your skillset, or you're someone that's trying to try and to start a side hustle, um, in hand lettering or, or whatever it may be, or you're, you're like myself who just likes to use Skillshare to, to learn new baking recipes and, uh, learn how to make a really good girl grilled cheese. Um, there's something there's something here for everyone. And so, um, yeah, so I think those, those two things are definitely big factors to our growth overall. And then I think over the last several years, our influencer marketing program has really been, um, the engine behind, uh, our new user growth over the last five years. Speaker 1 00:19:19 Okay. Interesting. Before even kind of, I'd love to dig into the influencer program and understand that a little bit better, but one of the things you said earlier was that, um, two thirds of the users are outside of the United States. And so I'm curious if that was like really intentional and you, you had programs really targeted internationally to get those users, or as more part of that organic engine that you talked about that just when community is strong, it gets spreads in different directions and you don't really control it much. You just try to encourage it and harness it. Speaker 2 00:19:49 Yeah, I think it's, I think it's really the latter. I think, um, we we're, we're primarily an English speaking product today. Most of our content is in English. And so, um, naturally we're, we're our largest markets are in those, those English speaking markets. Um, but yeah, from the very beginning, I think, uh, our referral program and our teacher community and our organic drove a lot of that early growth. Uh, and so those, those teachers came from all over the world and they were, um, they were experts in their field and bringing their local community onto Skillshare. And so, um, I think we saw that naturally. And then we layered on this, this influencer marketing program where, um, people are, are based all over the world. Their audience on YouTube is obviously global. And so that, uh, program naturally just, just expanded on that, that, uh, that user growth. And so just this, I think was the first time we started to really roll out initiatives, uh, specifically to international users. So localized currency, localized payment methods, uh, we're testing some new, interesting, uh, content with, with, um, creators based internationally. And so, and then starting to really, uh, expand our marketing and programmatic marketing as well as influencer marketing internationally. So Speaker 1 00:21:14 More details on that influencer program. I think that, that sounds really interesting. Speaker 2 00:21:19 Yeah. So the influencer program, uh, was a, it was a natural transition. I don't think at the time I can admit at least say that, uh, it was obvious to me. I joined, uh, Skillshare ready to roll out my standard, digital marketing acquisition playbook. And so testing things like podcasts and Facebook and search and the like, um, but saw this, like I, I was talking about earlier this natural, uh, creative community on the platform and these teachers referring, uh, just a high quality user base. And so, um, we started working with teachers who had a following outside of Skillshare, uh, and that's where we started testing some of these sponsorships on YouTube. And we just immediately saw a huge success there. We just, a couple of things, I think differentiated us one, the, the creators just had a natural affinity to Skillshare. They are all creators themselves. Speaker 2 00:22:16 And so they were already using Skillshare love to use Skillshare to do video editing, to do photography for their, for their content on YouTube. And so the, uh, connection we had with the creator was just, uh, was, was great. And just that translated into just a very authentic sponsorship read of, of, uh, the Skillshare ad. And so we didn't really give them much, um, guidance on, on the read. We gave them a couple of call-outs that they had to call out, but after that, it was just them talking about their authentic experience with Skillshare. And so, um, that drove a lot of initial success and we just started to test and test and learn on top of that. And so expanded into new categories, try different ad placements. Um, 62nd reads versus 30 seconds, uh, having the, the read are mentioned in the beginning of the video versus the end. Um, and then they experience all within, within Skillshare. And so, um, yeah, that's really, like I said earlier, been the engine behind our success and now we've run, um, over 10,000 campaigns over the last four years and, and work with thousands of creators today. So, um, Speaker 1 00:23:32 Amazing. Yeah. I mean, I just, I pick up this theme as you're, as you're going, it's about, you know, it's, you've got product market fit, that's driving a lot of this, you've got a lot of organic and then you've got a team that's really, um, analytical and, and, and yeah. Trying to, trying to figure out and double down on things. So, um, Ethan, it would be great. Maybe if you could dig a bit into sort of, uh, everything from, um, Kyle's role to how that team structured and the process, and just, just to kind of get a little more context in, in how you guys are working to harness the growth that that's been so effective. Speaker 3 00:24:06 Yeah, for sure. I mean, I've learned over, over time that managing influencer marketing is no small feat. So I'm really curious how that all fits, like how you do that. Um, but let's start with, you know, your role as VP of growth. What is, what's the scope of that what's within that and how does that fit into the marketing product growth organization as a whole? Speaker 2 00:24:24 Yeah, yeah. So, uh, today my team, uh, consists of SEO and organic, uh, as well as the traditional paid marketing, digital marketing channels, uh, influencer marketing. And then I work really in partnership with our growth product team. So, uh, for the last several years we ran a growth growth product or funnel optimization, et cetera, externally, we brought that in-house in 2019 and built out a traditional growth product, a cross-functional team. So the core team is a growth product manager, a designer, three engineers today, and then a VP of engineering who ran growth product teams in the past. Um, and I sit on that team as well, um, from just a strategy as well as, um, priorities and, and, um, and prioritizing that roadmap, Speaker 3 00:25:18 The perspective is that a lot of really focus on experimentation and testing at that point and within that team. Speaker 2 00:25:25 Yeah. So they that's all they do. So they, um, they started, our focus primarily was over the last, uh, several years has really been on acquisition conversion, funnel optimization, checkout, uh, experience pricing optimization. We have an annual plan and a monthly plan. And so, um, shifting people into that annual plan to drive that financial retention, uh, that's been the priority over the last several years, I would say. And we've seen, um, about 500% conversion rate growth over that time period, uh, which has really helped, you know, drive, drive some of that overall growth that we've seen. Uh, but now we've really started to invest more heavily into that early experience to really drive a long-term high engaging, uh, user retention. And so, um, yeah, trying to, trying to run more tests on onboarding, what that initial experience is, what is the first class that we're showing that person? How can we better align it to their user experience, um, in, at the ad level, uh, what campaign are they coming through and can we tie that, that campaign or that copy, or that influencer read to their experience when they get on Skillshare? Um, so that's been a lot of the work lately and that's where we're going to be on over the next, uh, year or so, I would say, Speaker 3 00:26:46 So really connecting the dots from what is happening from an acquisition all the way through the value, the value experience that the consumer gets and how that, how you, how you then power that for word of mouth and all those things. Speaker 2 00:26:59 Yeah, definitely, really just creating that, that learning habit. I mean, learning something online is, is no easy task and doing it, uh, religiously and weekly or monthly, uh, is challenging. And so how do you get someone to, um, engage in a class to discover, um, their creativity, to just explore their creativity and, and have that aha moment where they created something, um, that they had no experience 60 minutes ago. Um, how do you create that in and have them come back time and time again, uh, and investing in their creativity? That's something that, um, yeah, we are, we are extremely focused on figuring out and, and now the, uh, the team has built just a, really a rich culture that of testing and, and just, um, continually testing all areas of the experience that now we have other areas of the product, uh, running AB tests as well. So, um, we're running tests on our search algorithm. We're running tests on obviously the checkout experience and the onboarding, uh, as well as obviously my team on, on acquisition and, um, the, the top of funnel experience. Speaker 3 00:28:14 Gotcha. And I think it looks like you've been there about four years and you guys are now about 150 a team of about 115. Has it been, uh, ha has the, has it been a challenge to, you know, not get siloed and to really keep that culture of experimentation and growth as you've grown or how's, how's that worked within your organization? Speaker 2 00:28:33 Yeah, no, that's something we've definitely, I think struggled with, I think like any organization, especially, um, uh, when you have, uh, when you're a much smaller organization, I think teams are smaller and are more focused. And, um, I, I think we definitely experienced that at Skillshare where my team was, was running a lot of the growth tests. We were working with external agency that had engineers that was helping us execute tests. Um, and we, we in the product team was focused on, you know, just improving the product experience and making that, that online learning experience, uh, and watch experience better. Um, but I think we lacked that cohesive culture of, of, uh, testing and just, um, coming from, from all areas of the organization to, to develop what those those tests are. And so that was really, uh, created with our, uh, VP of engineering, who I said as run growth teams in the past and helped really establish that culture and what it looks like, put a clear process around our testing culture, where we have these pitch meetings, where anyone pitch an idea, um, it's modeled out and then it's prioritized on this, uh, this framework that we use, um, as well as a, a meeting that we, we call, uh, our CIO meeting, where we celebrate wins, we analyze different tests and we iterate on some and we obliterate, um, obliterate others. Speaker 2 00:30:01 So, um, establishing, I think that culture is so, so crucial because then it just becomes so infectious once people see the impact. So, um, we see other product managers are seeing the impact we have and they're, uh, starting to implement some of that process into their product pods. My team is also seeing that and saying, well, Hey, we can do the same thing on Facebook. We can do the same thing on our influencer program. We have, you know, um, so many hundred thousands of monthly users coming to our landing pages. How do we continuously improve and iterate on those? Um, so that's, that's, um, just establishing, I think that culture is just so crucial and, uh, I wish I would have done it years ago because I think my job would have been a little easier. Speaker 1 00:30:47 Yeah. That, that actually takes me to the question. Uh, Sean, Sean, back here, I've just got, wanted to ask with, uh, you mentioned that you started with an external agency helping where they brought in engineering, and then we're doing a lot of funnel optimization. Um, would you, would you repeat that path? Would you recommend that path for other people? Cause it sounds like you're in a really good place now, do you think that path was important to getting you getting you there? Or do you think you might've even gotten there faster if you'd taken it in-house from the beginning? Speaker 2 00:31:14 I think we probably would have gotten there faster taking it in-house from the beginning. I think, um, there was a little bit of a, you need to show the ROI before I give you a full product pot. Uh, obviously, uh, building out a product and engineering team is, is no easy feat and takes a lot of time. And so, um, there was a little bit of that and obviously we could run at a much faster clip if we can. Um, if we can start running tests, you know, uh, um, in a, in a bit of a silo. And so, um, we did that, we did, at that point, it was very low hanging fruit things. Um, adding content on our checkout page to tell you what Skillshare is, uh, just doing basic funnel optimization, basic pricing optimization, uh, and we just showed the impact that we had. Speaker 2 00:32:06 And so from there, we were able to, to, you know, go back to management and say, Hey, this is the impact we're driving. We can five X, this, if we start to build this in-house and, and build that culture, uh, in house and have it just more connected to the product experience, there were, there were definitely things that we couldn't touch if you will, within the product, uh, running, running an external agency. Uh, and we used, um, a tool that, that allowed us to, to run those tests on top of, on top of the Skillshare experience. It like over time, you've Speaker 3 00:32:40 Really dialed that in though. And you've referred to just how good the culture is now about testing and experimentation. I'm curious, um, if you guys use a North star metric, if you're, if that's something that's part of the culture. Speaker 2 00:32:52 Yeah, yeah. That's something, um, I think over, over, I think that was just another area of just building these foundations. I think building our data foundations from the beginning was, was incredibly important. And so, uh, we still haven't mastered the engagement and retention side and that North star metric is something we're actually trying to figure out right now. We have one, um, that's built on a deeper engagement, uh, within the product. So looking at, uh, a more down funnel, um, engagement metric that says, Oh, this user is watching so much content or so many lessons, um, in, uh, uh, in the early part of their experience on Skillshare. Uh, we've seen focusing on that metric has driven that early subscriber conversion from that trial to the paid experience, as well as that early retention. But, uh, we're revisiting that and challenging that assumption now to try to find how do we find that long, uh, highly retaining, highly engaged user, that again is coming back to Scotia on a weekly monthly basis. So, um, I have actually a bunch of, uh, my team as well as the product team going through the reforged training right now. And they're coming out of that with a bunch of amazing insights and are challenging, a lot of assumptions that we had, uh, historically around what's the right North star metric for us to measure. So that's something I think, uh, probably the next two months we'll have a, uh, a new North star metric that we'll probably be, be using across the team. Speaker 1 00:34:25 Yeah. I mean, even along the way, you've referenced this idea of minutes watched, um, that's how, that's how you pay your content creators. It's a, it, it shows engagement. And then, and then thinking about really, you know, all of the levers that can increase aggregate minutes watched, um, feels like sort of how you're executing the business. Am I getting something wrong there? Speaker 2 00:34:46 No, it absolutely is. It absolutely is. I think it's us. What we're doing now is challenging the idea that do you need to finish a complete class for you to hit that aha moment to, to, uh, discover something new, um, in your creative journey? Is it, uh, can do, are you getting as much value out of the business or out of the Skillshare experience if you're watching, uh, three classes, 50% of the way through, uh, versus one class and you're watching the whole thing, um, does it matter, um, how many different categories that you're going into or, um, how early on in the experience are you watching those things? So, yeah, I think you're absolutely right. It's definitely based on, based on that watch experience, but it's also, that's also built on, um, the, the existing product and how Skillshare is built. I think one of the areas that we're, we're really investing in over the next, uh, several months in, over the next year is it's just different, um, experiences on Skillshare. Speaker 2 00:35:47 So, uh, as I was talking about earlier with the, the teacher tools, can we give teachers the opportunity to have a one-on-one coaching experience with, with their, their students? Um, and what does that experience look like? Um, or, uh, does it have to be a full class with a project that's a big, a big ask for someone to come sit down, take a 60 minutes class, uh, work on some project and come, come out with it. That's a, that's a big lift for people. Um, we see people very interested in these bite-sized lessons, and so can we pull some of those out, um, and make them experiences in their own that they can maybe listen to on, on their commute or, um, as they're cleaning their house and walk away with some kind of, uh, value that maybe is not, uh, a completed, um, art picture or something like that, but it's something less, but they're, they're walking away with, um, with some value. So, um, I think we're just challenging all of those assumptions now and just really trying to find that again, that, that aha moment and what that looks like for, for a Skillshare user Speaker 1 00:36:59 And, and ultimately the goal is to, to get them to that, to building the habit of, of thinking about Skillshare when they want to learn something and coming back and learning it. I, I assume that's, that's the habit on an individual or the goal on an individual level. Speaker 2 00:37:13 Yeah. Yeah. I think we're just, we're really trying to, to inspire people to just explore their creativity. And so, um, again, that started with the creative professional, uh, those, those users are our super users who are graphic designers trying to master their craft, or, um, they are, uh, lawyers in their, their, uh, daytime, but they're, um, illustrators and, and, um, and children's book, uh, writers in there and then at night. And so, uh, just trying to foster that creativity, trying to foster that, that discovery for people and, and whatever it looks like for them, again, it's very, very different for me than it is for a lot of our super users. I'm no designer, but, um, I do have a creative pursuits of my own that, um, has become back to Skillshare. Speaker 1 00:38:08 That sounds like you're still just trying to figure out what are the what's that path that gets them, gets them to the point where, where they, uh, constantly think of Skillshare to explore their creativity and, and, and have it be that, that maybe creative outlet or expanding their creative skills. And, and, um, and that your, your, I mean, fortunately it sounds like the, um, the analytics strengths that you have across the company and the testing and that you're still, Speaker 2 00:38:36 You're still building out that model, but over time, as you gain a better understanding, then you can work to drive more and more improvement and understanding where you're losing people on that journey. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think as we're learning more about, about our users, especially abroad, I think the reason they come to Skillshare is very different and we just, we just completed this, this audience development research to try to suss this out a little more, but what we're discovering is, and it's, it's really obvious, but, um, the, the Skillshare consumer in India and why they come to Skillshare to learn is very different than the Skillshare consumer in the U S. And so, um, they are very skills-based. They want to walk away with a new skill that they can apply to their career, um, and further their education, where, um, where in the U S we have much more of that hobbyist community where someone's, uh, redesigning their house. And they're, they're trying to figure out, uh, what's the best way to, to hang art, for example. And so, um, really, I think nailing that and digging into that even even further and understanding how we can iterate the product for those different users across the globe, I think, is really going to drive that next phase of growth for us. Speaker 3 00:39:50 Awesome. Well, I think we're, we're running up towards the end here. So I have just one last question before we wrap up, I'm just curious, Kyle, what do you think is like the one thing you feel like you understand about growth now that you may not have understood a few years ago that you've learned over your time at Skillshare? Speaker 2 00:40:06 Yeah, I would say, um, building that growth culture, I think initially is just so important, uh, versus, you know, collaborating with others versus just being the lone Wolf for a lone Wolf team that, uh, I think when I joined Skillshare, I probably would have said something like, give me a designer, give me an engineer and we'll run. Um, and I think you can, you can show impact and you can show results from that perspective. But now looking at the culture we, we developed and to see, um, my team constantly running tests, uh, and then to look at the growth product product roadmap to see, uh, the teams actively launching three to four, uh, tests, every sprint, and then to look at the rest of the product, Oregon, to see us running tests on our search experience on the class experience and the class details page. Speaker 2 00:40:54 And there's just so much more power to be, uh, to be had if you create that culture and invest in that early, um, you can just get so much further, faster, uh, when you do that. Um, I would say that's first and foremost, and then I think, secondly, it's probably just investing in the foundations are our, uh, chief product officer always talks about doing the brilliant basics. So, um, when I started Skillshare, uh, our SEO profile was, was pretty disastrous. We had, uh, uh, some spam penalties from Google because we had some user generated spam on the site. People were hosting, um, pirated movies on Skillshare, and it was, there was a lot of cleanup we had to do. We had to just do the basics before we could start to implement a real SEO strategy. And so there's just so much benefit from doing that early. Speaker 2 00:41:48 Um, and so doing things like building that, that data foundation early, um, just to make sure you have insights into, uh, engagement, retention, and figuring out how people are using the product and what is that aha moment. Um, and then just doing things like developing a process and a testing framework, I think, um, that's just been so, so instrumental to our growth that anywhere I would go next that's exactly. Um, probably the playbook I would, I would try to roll out. Yeah, I think that's so awesome. Earlier in the conversation, you mentioned that, um, you know, everybody is empowered to suggest tests and it's neat how you, how you said they can, anybody can suggest anything, but they have to come armed with data. And it seems like it's just this really nice balance between a culture where everyone's invited to share, but on the other side of it is, you know, ideas or guesses, let's turn those into, into actions, using data. Speaker 2 00:42:44 Exactly, exactly. And I think it's, yeah, and it's, it's created a, an environment where, uh, we we've obviously have it, people that understand how to leverage that data, um, at the company. And so if you, aren't in a, a data-driven role, we can partner you with someone from my team or someone from our growth team, and they'll help you run the mix panel analysis if you have an insight from your day job. And so, uh, yeah, it's just a really, really cool culture that, um, we're getting just tons of interesting tests that I just, I don't see on a daily basis because I'm not working with a teacher for example, on a day-to-day basis. And so, um, you just get all of these unique perspectives about the Skillshare experience and the community and, and what they need, um, that maybe you don't that I don't definitely get in my, my role, um, on the growth and acquisition side. Speaker 1 00:43:37 Yeah. Kyle, this is, this is so good. I, um, yeah, I wrote down a bunch of takeaways that I was going to go through, but you covered so many of them there that I'm, I'm not going to, uh, I'm not going to risk diluting them, but I did have one last question for you. Um, for me, it's like, I, you talked about your, your career started in finance, and then I think I was, I was looking at your, um, your LinkedIn background, even at Skillshare, that, that it looked like you started in more of a general marketing role. Is that right? Or am I remembering wrong on that? Speaker 2 00:44:05 Yeah, so I started, um, started in finance, went to business school. I wasn't really passionate about, um, about investment banking per se, uh, enjoy the analytics side of things and, and went to business school to, to really, um, shift into marketing and entrepreneurship and, and joined at a time where, um, where marketing was, was evolving. I think at that time, uh, people, these, these marketing recruiters were very attracted to my skillset and I was just shocked. I was like, what do you want to finance guy in marketing for? Um, but as I, as I learned more in the program, uh, it became apparent that there's, there's a lot of value as, as the marketing world was just shifting to a more analytical, um, analytical approach. And so, uh, yeah, I joined a startup called LearnVest, which was a FinTech startup that was ultimately acquired by Northwestern mutual, um, as their first B2B marketer. So doing kind of the traditional marketing stuff, and then, uh, switched over to their acquisition performance marketing team on the DTC side. Uh, and did that for, for several years before joining Skillshare as the first kind of, um, acquisition growth marketer, um, on the Skillshare team. Speaker 1 00:45:22 Yeah, it's really funny. Cause I actually, I think in 2008, when the, uh, when the kind of finance world was melting down quite a bit, I wrote a, I wrote a blog post that was basically like go out and hire some of those guys to lead your growth and marketing efforts, uh, because there's so many talented people that are really numbers driven there that could be really effective. And, and I'm, I'm seeing just looking at your own evolution. It, it reminds me a lot of mine where I started, you know, very, um, you know, marketing oriented top of funnel oriented, but you just realize over time that there's so many interdependent levers that are, that are deeper, that are, um, either going to stop you from being successful or significantly improve your ability to be successful that over time you can become a lot more holistic if your, if your focus is on growth output. So that's, that was, that was the question I was heading toward. Was, um, what, what do you think has been the, the source of your most important learning? Is it just, is it just through doing and constantly trying to get a better result or, or have you actually, um, found some specifics, like you mentioned, like you've been going through Reforge. Is, is there, are there specific sources that have, uh, helped your, your, uh, take your learning to the next level? Speaker 2 00:46:36 I think it's, I think for me, it's probably just, uh, learning from other people within the organization. Like I said, there, um, we have a VP of engineering that I work very closely with that, um, has just has done this several times and I've learned so much about, uh, the growth process and, and the, the engineering process, et cetera, through him. And, um, just giving the people that I have on my team are from very diverse backgrounds. And so, um, just learning different, different things about marketing, different things about, um, about, uh, really anything, uh, from that team. And so for me, it's just really, uh, learning from others and letting people, giving people the autonomy that they, that they need so that they can, uh, do the thing that they're good at it. And I'll take something away from that every, and so, Speaker 1 00:47:30 Um, that's just been a really, really rewarding experience for me. And just again, just fosters that, that collaboration, uh, within the company. And so I would probably, yeah, I would probably say that, that, that's, that's amazing. I definitely feel like, um, to be successful today, you have to be very cross disciplined in your skill set and that, that discipline skill set helps you so much more effectively collaborate and learn from different parts of the organization. And, and frankly, gain respect that, you know, a lot of years ago, a marketer interfacing with someone in engineering would probably get a lot of eye rolls as like you you're clueless and, and vice versa. And so, um, but, but when you talk about that culture, that permeated Skillshare and continues to get better, uh, over time and ultimately everyone should be pulling in the same direction to make impact on customers and, and, and the mission of the business. And it sounds like you guys are doing a great job of that. So thank you. Thank you so much for sharing the exciting Skillshare story. And I'm not surprised that, uh, investors seem to be clamoring to help you take things to the next level. So, uh, I know Ethan and I are both going to be watching pretty closely to see where you take it from here. So great. Speaker 1 00:48:46 Yeah, absolutely. And so, uh, to everyone listening, thanks for tuning in. Speaker 0 00:48:54 Thanks for listening to the breakout growth podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform, and while you're at it subscribe. So you never miss a show until next week.

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