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Mindflash uses the Cloud to change the face of corporate training

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Mindflash provides an online platform for employee and customer training. Its cloud-based, design allows businesses to more easily create and manage critical company training programs — saving them significant time and money. No engineering or IT support is required, as there is no software to install or maintain. Courses are created using the file types that businesses already use (PowerPoint, PDF, Word, video, audio). Trainers simply upload and organize files using an intuitive course dashboard, add quizzes and then publish to the web to create self-paced new hire training, sales training, customer certification courses, etc.

Mindflash has secured more than 1,000 customers including McDonalds, Microsoft, Lufthansa and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Founded in 1999, Mindflash is a privately held company headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

So, I visited CEO of Mindflash, Donna Wells at their Palo Alto headquarters to learn more about the company success in acquiring large companies.

Q: How many people are at the company now and are they all based in California?
Donna: Mindflash is now 25 people and half are local in Palo Alto and half remote across the US. Everybody is a full time Mindflash employee and they live and work where they choose to for personal and family reasons. We have a scrum master in Vermont, QA people in North Dakota and Arizona, Product person in Santa Barbara and developers in AZ, Central California, outside Seattle.

Q: What technologies are you using to manage distributed teams?
Donna: We use every technology to manage distributed teams. In fact, we have a buffet of Cloud based technologies to manage our teams. They include:

  • Skype: For remote phone calls and conferences
  • Yammer: We are big Yammer users and it's integrated with Mindflash. Yammer uses us to train their employees and customers which has helped us win new business.
  • Sococo: for team collaboration.
  • Gekoboard: to share stats across the company in real time about revenue, up-time, number of customers, etc.
  • Rally: for product features, defect management and QA

Q: How do you see the impact of rapid technology on jobs and the economy?
Donna: I don't know if you have read "The Second Machine Age", by Andrew McAfee which speaks to how this wave of new technology is not just resulting in a new wave of jobs. It's not the steam engine where the people employed in the old economy would learn to operate a printing press and find another job. This new wave of technology is bifurcating the labor force and putting a ridiculous premium on knowledge workers where if you are a Data Analyst or Software Developer you are in high demand. Some CEOs are over-compensated for that matter too. But jobs for mid-tier manager have gone away and will never come back. And jobs that are un-automatable are doing very well and may even increase in value, say if you are a hair dresser or a janitor.

Q: Can you share an example?
Donna: Look at Kodak. At it's peak it employed 150,000 people producing film and distributing it. They went bankrupt several years ago. In contrast Instagram in the same business of photographs employs only 15 people which sold to Facebook for an astronomical sum! So, what 150,000 people were doing before is now being done by 15 people using the latest technologies including Cloud, free storage and the ever decreasing price of mobile devices.
So, skills are not keeping pace with the technology change and companies have to spend the time on training their employees. And that's what excites us about the corporate training market.

Q: How is Mindflash used by your customers?
Donna: We provide a platform for companies to train employees, partners or customers on their own time, at their own pace on any device. Once you become an employee, you get your new hire orientation training to get critical information about your new company. Average time to import training content is in minutes. Our training is asynchronous, on-demand, and available on virtually any device that the customer has and it scales when they need to train thousands of users in a short time.

Q: How many customers does Mindflash have today?

Donna: We have more than 1000 customers across 500 industries. Because of our reach across these industries, we need to have a code base that's consistent and seamless across all of our customers.

Q: Why was training one of the last applications to move the Cloud?
Donna: Unlike accounting and financial functions of companies where they follow standardized rules, there are no training standards. Training has been perceived as an art rather than science and if you look at 2 companies of identical size, in the same business, you would find vastly different training programs. Additionally, a majority of companies don't even offer any training. They bring people on and give them self-directed material and hope it sticks. And if they don't perform, they hire a new batch. That's how most companies view the role of training.

Q: What is the most powerful use case?
Donna: Our use case is to get your training launched quickly, get your feedback quickly, get mission critical information to the minds of your employees and customers. We value that speed and tight feedback loop and that's why we don't do essay questions. Our focus is on delivering an engaging, self-paced experience for learners that trainers can easily track and tie to business impact.

Q: Any existing news about the company that you could share?

Donna: Yes, we just announced an industry's first facial recognition application in training and are very excited about it. This feature precisely analyzes trainees’ facial expressions to compute a real-time "Engagement Score" for each portion of the course. The score is provided in aggregate, never by trainee, to help the trainer identify opportunities for improvements in course materials. A minimum of five trainees must complete a course before an Engagement Score is generated.

Well, it appears that Donna and company are offering some neat solutions to help companies deploy and track cloud based training that should help solve the gap we now see between the latest technology and current skills.

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