Pandemic lockdowns around the world have caused health and economic chaos, which may now spiral in to mass unemployment as government-funded furlough schemes near closure dates. Retraining and acquiring new skills are a priority for many people, with online resources meaning it can be achieved at home. Coronavirus lockdowns have sparked a boom in online learning for adults. Unprecedented growth rates have multiplied the back-office efforts needed to invoice the multitude of both new users and course content providers accurately and in a timely fashion. Automated payables procedures provided by the likes of Tipalti have come to the fore.
Skillshare is a U.S. online learning platform that provides an interface between people who want to access educational videos to develop creative skills in areas including design, illustration, business, tech, photo and film, and writing, and the skilled professionals who provide the video content. The courses, which are not accredited, are available through subscription.
The company now has 12 million registered member creators, making it the world’s largest online learning community for creativity. 8,000 teachers have provided 30,000 video classes, which are accessible to U.S. users for $99 a year or $19 a month.
The majority of courses focus on interaction rather than lecturing, with the primary goal of learning by completing a project. There are even courses to give members a confidence boost in other aspects of their lives, something that many people who endure being made redundant could benefit from. And that is said from personal experience.
At a fraction of the cost of enrolling in formal classes, platforms such as Skillshare have democratized upskilling for the benefit of a wider crowd of users, whether they seek freelance work opportunities or want to just improve personal skills and enjoyment from a leisure activity. The company’s mission statement, though, is to make the new economy an open meritocracy, where the skills and expertise needed to succeed are available for anyone willing to learn them.
The company had conducted a re-branding exercise earlier in 2020, which saw them in perfect shape to respond to the demands created by the pandemic. During the lockdowns, the sign-up rate of new members tripled, said CEO Matt Cooper. Two-thirds of them were from outside the U.S., and they have also added corporate customers who offer access to Skillshare as a perk for their employees. That’s not just an altruistic move – a growing number of companies increasingly realize the added value of a more creative workforce.
Also prior to the pandemic, in order for the business to scale, Skillshare had already taken on a new Head of Finance, Leslie Pesante. Her priority was to put in place a payments system solution that could handle high-growth, cope with their growing international expansion, and manage robust invoice processing and payments. They chose to work with the automated payments system provider Tipalti. For Pesante and the finance team, the time-saving benefits were monumental.
“It’s very important for Skillshare to have a platform like Tipalti. Providing people with a system where they can get paid on time, however they want, is a huge benefit of our platform. We used to spend three hours a week making payments. Now, it’s down to minutes.”
Additionally, they gained a layer of added trust and financial controls: “When you’re scheduling payments, you want things to happen the way you expect them to—that’s a really critical feature.”
Tipalti itself has recognized that in the crowd economy a company’s payments system is a key touchpoint with the majority of its stakeholders. What is traditionally regarded as a back-office function is actually a key factor in people’s impression of a business – and it thus has a crucial marketing benefit and value. “If you’re not paying people on time, you’re not professional. Having a best in class payments platform is a big benefit for our influencers,” echoes Pesante.
Skillshare is planning for continued exponential growth. They recently closed a funding round with a cash injection of $66 million from investors who are keen for a slice of Skillshare’s great performance. The funding will primarily be used to create a localized experience for international students, increase engagement between students and teachers, expand teachers’ audiences through dedicated marketing efforts, and create new formats for teachers to earn revenue.
“While the world faces an extended period of uncertainty, creativity will be at the heart of the global rebuild,” said CEO Matt Cooper. Tipalti’s systems will play a crucial role.