Jessica Lin
Nov 7, 2017 · 4 min read
Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov on Unsplash

As a VC, I’ve been researching and tracking technologies broadly within the “Future of Work” space. Ask any VC and you’ll get different responses as to what Future of Work covers — be it collaboration, productivity, AR/VR, RPA, and more. So I thought I’d share some of our early learnings at Work-Bench, which are ever-evolving — we’d love to hear from you, and to continue to learn.

As an enterprise-focused VC fund, we invest in startups selling into large enterprise customers, and we engage regularly with Fortune 500 line of business buyers.

In my last post, I discussed how AI and automation will help free up the most mundane, manual, repetitive, labor-intensive parts of a person’s job, to move workers onto higher-value skills and jobs.

New software like RPA will be able to automate the following:

Removing repetitive work is one thing — but to where are we then transferring this freed up human capital?

The New York Times published a powerful profile a few weeks ago, detailing an Indiana factory getting moved offshore, and how painfully difficult it has been for their highly-skilled factory workers to move into another job, or to start over again in a new skillset and job.

Especially with 38 percent of all jobs in the United States “at high risk of automation” by the early 2030s, most of them in routine occupations (Mother Jones), what new technologies and platforms are helping people pick up new commensurate, transferable, and agile skills?

If we are building technologies that shift certain lower-level skills and work away from humans (let’s say 40% of their work), what technologies can train these same people for new, higher-leveled skills and work?

I expect us to see:

  • New skills will require new modalities of learning and applications of learning, beyond v1 of what we have seen with video content libraries — and for this to be huge, urgent shift.
  • Production of learning content will need become even more Agile — i.e. how do we ensure that by the time some high-production courses are developed, the content is not already out of date?
  • These platforms won’t be called the traditional types of “training” or “learning management systems,” so it will be interesting to follow how their end buyers — especially at large enterprise companies — evolve (see recent 2017 Learning Buyers report).
  • We will continue to follow what product / platform differences lay between infrastructure and application, reskilling knowledge-worker vs. non-knowledge workers; and or functional-specific roles (i.e. sales enablement and security-focused companies).

A few startups that excite me in this space:

  • We know Pluralsight and Lynda, of course, has seen immense success and adoption with their massive video content libraries (for developers and designers). It’ll be interesting to follow what libraries can be developed for non-visual skills, like sales, etc., i.e. Cybrary as a video library focused on security-training.
  • AR/VR — While AR/VR in education is still an early space, applications like Planned Parenthood’s Across the Line VR recently created experiences that evoked immersive empathy and engagement. Look forward to seeing what applications there could be for soft skills development, as well as simulation training (Rangeforce for security).
  • Polarity — a memory augmentation platform that displays data relevant to your work via on-screen overlays, using computer vision to recognize what is on your and your co-workers screens in real-time to share in a “collective memory.”
  • Hickory — helps you retain knowledge and information better. I’m especially keen to see how companies can apply the science behind learning better in their tech (including Coursera’s most popular How to Learn course).
  • Upskill* — a smart glass wearable solution that helps line technicians better assemble complex manufacturing parts through their hands-free, voice command viewfinder (and literally removes painful repetitive motion: https://upskill.io/landing/upskill-and-boeing/). What other skills can be taught and trained via this kind of immersive interface?
  • Brilliant.org — Brilliant too eschews the traditional lectures and videos, but instead designs increasingly advanced and challenging math and science quizzes, surrounded by a community of members who can help users continue to learn.
  • Grammarly — while they do not brand themselves as a training company, Grammarly already has 6.9 million daily active users using the platform to improve their writing. What other types of personalized and in-app learning will emerge, that follow in the steps of Duolingo as sticky, fun, and beautifully-designed experiences?
  • Loom — a new way of capturing video that makes it quick and easy for anyone to create videos. While the platform is being used for product, customer success, and a number of use cases, its applications for employee training, education, and content authoring is broad, as it lowers the bar necessary for anyone to make videos, and to do it quickly without high production and editing software costs.

What other interesting technologies and applications have you seen in this agile learning space? We’d love to hear.

We host a number of sessions at Work-Bench, bringing together leading corporate executives and top startups, including a series around Future of Work. If you’re interested in participating, please reach out for more information.

Upskill is a Work-Bench portfolio company.

Work-Bench

Work-Bench is an enterprise technology VC fund in NYC. We support early go-to-market enterprise startups with community, workspace, and corporate engagement.

Jessica Lin

Written by

co-founder & VC @Work_Bench | GED educator | rethinking work

Work-Bench

Work-Bench is an enterprise technology VC fund in NYC. We support early go-to-market enterprise startups with community, workspace, and corporate engagement.

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