December 31, 2020

Hindsight is 2020

Alberto here – as this year finally comes to an end, I wanted to bring back all of the ideas shared in this newsletter through this year.

We will look at:

  1. Most popular newsletter issues of 2020
  2. Cold vs Bold Takes of 2020
  3. Transcend Network and 2021

1/3: The Newsletter in 2020

In 2020, I published 18 newsletters, reaching 1,100 new subscribers. We discussed topics such as the rise of remote work, the disruption of school for over 1.6B students worldwide or the transition towards a lifelong learning society.

Let's start by reviewing the most popular newsletter issues:

#1 Finding Work You Love πŸ‘©β€πŸš€

Finding meaningful work is a lot more difficult than simply matching companies with skilled candidates, especially when you want to find work you actually love.

A new wave of startups are supporting job seekers from the personal and career discovery stages, through mapping their skills and career journeys, skills training and placement into new positions and careers

Startups to watch: Mission Collaborative, Riipen, Guild Education, Roadtrip Nation, PeopleGrove.

#2 The Upskilling Marketplace πŸ›’

The upskilling model of learning and working is slowly becoming mainstream, as we move from multi-year degree structures to shorter-term, more applied learning.

I proposed a marketplace that helps employees and individuals find the right training provider to learn the skills they need and estimate the ROI on that investment

Startups to watch: Strive, LearnIn, CareerKarma

#3 Rethinking Management Training πŸ‘”

The management training industry is a massive sector worth $24b annually. It is misunderstood and underinvested due to barriers that limit innovation, such as the customer not being the buyer, the small % of the employees who get access, or the little technological adoption.

Startups to watch: Strive, Cultivate, Hone, Torch

The topics that resonated most with all of you were usually explorations of markets or trends that flew under the radar for the general public interested in education (with deep dives, market maps, opportunities for founders). I plan on making more of these in 2021!

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2/3: 2020 takes: Bold or Cold?

2020 obviously had a fair amount of hot takes. Let’s see which ones went cold since.

Take #1: Big Tech in Higher Ed β†’ πŸ”₯

In, "Your degree is Amazon's opportunity", I predicted that Big Tech would make a deeper investment in higher education to finance course creation and own one vertical that defines their brand (Facebook = marketing, Apple = design)

Since then, Netflix announced a partnership with HBCUs and 2U that resembled the value chain analysis laid out in the newsletter, ServiceNow announced a partnership with Northeastern University for an apprenticeship degree in the UK. I'd expect many more of these partnerships in 2021.

Take #2: university demand drop β†’ ❄️

In the two COVID-focused newsletters published in April, I predicted university demand would drop massively in 2020 and shift towards hybrid funding models where both employers and students share the risk of tuition, rather than only students.

In hindsight, that was mostly right for undergrad enrollment, but awfully wrong in post-graduate enrollment, which actually grew since the pandemic and where risk is most on the student. Lukewarm take at best!

Take #3: Vertical hiring networks β†’ πŸ”₯

In The Great LinkedIn Unbundling, I talked about the rise of vertical hiring platforms that focus on the skills needed by employers and candidates in specific industries.

Since then, these platforms have exploded, with great examples like Contra or Kanna (both led by Transcend Fellows).

Take #4: Upskilling marketplaces β†’ ❄️

One of the main premises in The Upskilling Marketplace was that employees at companies could compare the ROI of a college degree for an employer (like Guild Education does) but also compare it to that of a bootcamp or industry certificate, so employees could make more data-drive decisions.

I had a few players in mind that could connect all these different players in a marketplace and offer it to employees, but that has simply not happened. Freezing cold take!

3/3: Transcend Network

2020 has been a big year for Transcend Network – the network that powers this newsletter, and the source of those hundreds of conversations with founders that lead to these insights.

This year, we went from nothing to supporting 60 early-stage founders who went through the Transcend Fellowship, who came from 20+ countries. All of these fellows were addressing important problems in the world of education and the future of work, from reimagining the university experience to learning communities or new ways to do K-12 education.

In 2021, we'll keep running these fellowships. Keep your eyes on this newsletter if you want to learn more about our upcoming fellowship, which we'll announce in less than a month!

So that was 2020 for us!

I expect 2021 to be a big year for Transcend Network and for this newsletter, so keep an eye out for some cool projects and collaborations coming your way soon! What new topics do you want to read about in 2021? What can we improve in this newsletter?
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