April 25, 2017
PUBLISHED BY Wildcat Venture Partners
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and our current workforce isn’t ready for it. At Wildcat Venture Partners, we are painfully aware of this. But beyond the pain we also see great opportunity. That’s why we’re helping to launch a new education category, one that is focused on preparing the workforce for jobs in the 21st century and the new digital economy.
First, let’s define what we mean by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s the ongoing revolution carrying us from the current electronics and information technology age that began last century, into one that will blur “the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres,” as World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab says – a digital economy. The digital economy is leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots, self-driving vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing.
Unlike the last three industrial revolutions, which impacted specific industries, this one will be—and already is—pervasive, influencing every organization and every industry at every level. This revolution is fueled by digital technologies that are being embedded in all business functions. While machines and capital drove the last industrial revolution, the digital economy is driven by systems of intelligence and data.
The key fact here is that this revolution is already happening.
We actually view this as great news. Thousands of well-paying jobs are already open for people who can operate the soft machinery – business application software – of the digital economy, and we expect those numbers to grow exponentially. The caveat: There just aren’t enough people who are properly trained to fulfill the demand.
These are not technical positions that must be staffed by highly technical engineers, computer scientists, or individuals with advanced science and technology degrees – and only represent about 10 percent of the workforce. Instead, these jobs are open to anyone who is creative, a critical thinker with a desire to learn, and trained to use business application software to generate business value.
We’re talking about the other 90 percent of the workforce. These are the under-employed; the baristas and store clerks who may have two or four-year degrees but can’t land a job because they have not been trained to be “business scientists” who understand how to capture, analyze and utilize customer, financial, market and product data.
These “business science” positions have created a need for a new type of education program; one that can help everyday workers across all industries and companies of all sizes to either gain employment or learn new skills to stay employed.
At Wildcat, we have been exploring ways in which people can quickly acquire business science skills. Existing educational institutions and methodologies are inadequate because they lack business application software training and real-world experiential mentoring. Online programs – which do not focus on business science, do not offer industry-based certification, and do not provide useful work experience – won’t suffice either.
With no viable options, Wildcat founding partner Bruce Cleveland spearheaded the first successful pilot of a new micro education model. This pilot tested a number of theories on how best to train a workforce that is intelligent, creative, and willing to devote one semester – 200 hours – to learning a new skill.
After two years running the pilot program – Bend Polytechnic Academy (BendPoly) – in Bend, Oregon, and focusing on marketing science, he determined the following: When given hands-on, live, interactive instruction, students could quickly become proficient using business applications such as Google Analytics and Marketo marketing automation software. The BendPoly students were also asked to develop real marketing campaigns for actual businesses. The result of the program: More than 80 percent were placed in marketing roles at notable companies such as Groupon as well as small startups such as Kollective.
For example, Amber Caisse entered BendPoly with an undergraduate degree from Boston University, a Master’s degree from Concordia University, and experience living and working abroad. But the BendPoly micro degree program gave her the skills and experience she needed to actually secure a job. These were skills she said she just didn’t get through her undergraduate and MBA studies. Amber believes the skills she learned through BendPoly gave her an edge over others, which enabled her to quickly take on projects without a long learning curve.
As a result of the pilot, Wildcat Venture Partners elected to create and fund a new entity offering courses in multiple business disciplines and designed to scale – GreenFig University. GreenFig University is a micro university offering micro degrees in applied business science, including: customer success, marketing, products, sales, service, and support.
GreenFig University provides students with the hands-on, interactive training they need to understand business process and learn how to use business application software. GreenFig’s micro degrees offer highly-focused, highly-concentrated applied business science degrees designed to make students job-ready in less than 200 hours. GreenFig University students gain both the knowledge and work experience they need to implement and operate the business application software that drives most organizations.
Today, at the Marketo Nation Summit, in front of thousands of Marketo customers, GreenFig University announced a strategic partnership with Marketo. The university is also in discussions with other industry-leading business application software providers to offer courses in other key business functions. This will allow GreenFig to provide certifications of proficiency – micro certificates – from these leading companies that are in high demand by industry.
GreenFig University’s programs are open to anyone who can think critically, enjoys being creative, and is dedicated to learning a new skill. They’re especially targeted to higher-education students, veterans, people returning to the workforce after long absences, displaced workers looking for a new career and well, people who simply want to pick up some new skills and career opportunities.
The first GreenFig University course in Digital Marketing Science will begin on August 16. The course will be delivered through a combination of physical and virtual classrooms in major tech centers such as Austin, Texas; Bend, Oregon; Chicago; New York and San Francisco. The course will be physically broadcast over the GreenFig Education Broadcasting Network from Bend and delivered in real-time to students located in the selected cities. Additional locations will be considered if five or more qualified students in a specific metropolitan area enroll.
For the Fall 2017 semester program, 20 candidates will be accepted for each class location. To learn more and apply, applicants should go to www.greenfiguniversity.com and complete the online application form by July 31. Applicants will be notified within five business days of their acceptance into the program.
GreenFig fits into Wildcat’s investment strategy to create, find and/or incubate interesting early-stage companies in, or about to reach, the Traction Gap. These companies are somewhere between releasing their first product and a point in time when they can generate some sort of market validation signal and a positive growth trajectory. We provide our portfolio companies with the necessary resources, including mentoring and best practices, to traverse the Traction Gap.
We established the Traction Gap Institute (TGI) to help guide our companies and the greater entrepreneurial community. We have interviewed dozens of successful CEOs and founders in order to discover how they were able to traverse the Traction Gap. We are compiling their tips/tricks and then publishing them in playbooks and discussing them in workshops so that our portfolio companies have the best opportunity to succeed. The Traction Gap Institute is open to anyone who wishes to join – at no cost.
GreenFig University is using the Traction Gap processes and operating model developed by Wildcat to ensure it is prepared to scale to meet the demands of industry and the digital economy. Hold on because it’s going to be a wild ride.