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The lynda.com Story: Founders and key executives share accounts of learning, teaching, and building their company.
Company cofounders Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman, with CEO Eric Robison and other top executives, present the early roots, current landscape, and future vision of lynda.com. This short-form documentary covers how Lynda and Bruce's careers, relationship, and company started and evolved, and how their vision and high standards have shaped the lynda.com mission to help others.
(music playing) Bruce Heavin: lynda.com didn't take off like a rocket. It took a long time to get to where we are today, but it had a very good growth rate. So, even if you're only making 100 new customers a month, and you're growing at a certain rate, you're growing at that rate, and it compounds every month over month. That was the most exciting thing to us, but it was painful too. We lost a lot of our other businesses.
We gave up our books, we decided to focus, we gave up our conferences, we gave up our classrooms and our training, and this allowed us to focus and really dive into what we were both passionate about, which is education in web design and imagery and photography. Lynda Weinman: I think it's important to say that when we first started the online video subscription business, we were not terribly successful. We were before broadband, before YouTube, before so many, you know, Internet companies that we take for granted today, you know, even before people had really high-resolution monitors, I mean, before digital video pretty much.
And so it actually took several years for the world to catch up with what we were doing, to be honest, and we were struggling. It disrupted our existing business. Bruce: When we first made the Online Training Library, we had a growing business in selling CD and DVD-ROMs, and it was actually producing significant revenue, and we were really happy with it. But once we made all of our lessons for $25 a month, it's just like the sales just went straight down into the toilet.
I mean, they went down faster than you might ever believe. And it was alarming and the gut instinct was cut it, cut it, it's going to kill us. And it really sent us into the desert. It really--it was a lot of pain. And this pain went on for three, maybe four years. And we faced decisions on whether we should end this, but it was really after a lot of calculations and looking at the numbers and looking at the projections and looking years out that I think there's something here, we just got to survive.
This isn't about a short-term selling CDs, this is really long-term. This is about building something better for our customers, better for us, and better for learning. And we decided to stick to it. And I think we came out the other side, and boy did it take off. Lynda: We just found that there was an insatiable thirst for what we were teaching, and it really extended beyond web design, that in general, there were very poor learning materials on how to even begin to start, you know, with these different subject matters.
Bruce: I think the sole driver of lynda.com, sadly, was never marketing. We never had marketing downright. We kind of blew it at every chance, and every time we tried to do something, it would never succeed. But it was brilliant as I think we built truly a great product where our membership were our marketing, and it was them telling other people. And I think that word of mouth and that spreading was a constant growth that we just kept experiencing.
Lynda: And then, you know, it just started--the numbers started to get, you know, astonishing. It was, you know, to this day, I don't think we ever dreamed that lynda.com would reach as many people as it reaches now. Jacqui Burge: When I first started at the company, we had an office in Ventura, and at the time Bruce and Lynda thought that would be our office forever, and we would never have to go anywhere else. When my first day I came in and my desk was in the hall, I knew we were kind of in trouble, and that it was going to be a constant challenge to keep up with the incredible growth of the company, and that's been the case ever since.
Lynda: When we first conceived of our service, it was only for individual membership. But people started to ask us, "Can we have a discount if we have, you know, more people in our company who want to use it?" And initially, we did just that. But we had a teacher who came to us, and she said, you know, "I really need to see reports. "And there--if you could build a version of lynda.com that would have this sort of minimum amount of reporting, then I could get it adopted in my entire school." And so we listened to her, and we actually crafted a version of the library just for her school.
And then eventually, other schools found out about it, and what they discovered was that having lynda.com was actually liberating to the teachers. And our product grew word-of-mouth, and originally very slowly--or what we now call our enterprise product. And it's just fascinating to me that, you know, today we're in all of these Ivy League schools and so many schools are adopting us, and it's so exciting, and businesses are adopting lynda.com.
But we really just started that part of it in response to a single teacher's request. Bruce: You know, we were being approached again and again by investors. Lynda: It was a little bit overwhelming to me and Bruce because we had never built the company to flip it, you know? We knew a lot of people in the--you know, early Dot-com days that was kind of their idea was build business and sell it, and that was their dream. But that was never our dream. Our dream was to build something really great, which we knew we were doing. But there were a lot of things that we didn't understand how to do, and we weren't sure that we have the right level of experience to run a business, besides that our company was growing too.
It was about 35 people. Bruce: It got to the point where our phone wouldn't stop ringing, and we just couldn't ignore them. So I asked someone to help us out, and there was Eric Robison. He took a look at our business and he vetted a lot of these people who came our way and he was really impressed with what we've done. So he wanted to come on board and he wanted to help guide us and bring in professional management and he did a good job with this. Eric Robison: In 2007 I was serving on boards and consulting with different companies, and mutual friends introduced me to Lynda and Bruce.
And at that time the company was just really growing in an incredible rate, and they were looking for someone to advise them, to help them with what the next step should be. I met them in October of 2007, and by January 1st, 2008, I was on full time. No intent to go back into a role with the company full time, but this was such an incredible opportunity to work with them and work with the company. Lynda: Well, bringing on Eric was a huge turning point for us. There were so many things that he understood how to do that we didn't understand.
He built out our finance team, he built out our sales team. He understood what the business needed from a architectural and hierarchical view, where I think we understood what the business needed from a vision perspective. Bruce: We didn't know management. We didn't know a CEO from a VP from a--we didn't know any of this stuff. We didn't know management structure, and Eric brought in a whole new level of professionalism that really just changed things.
And really, the goal was practically to put ourselves out of a job. Eric: Since I joined the company, we've gone through incredible growth, and that growth forces us to evolve as a company. The people need to evolve, the processes, the systems, the decision-making we go through, it all evolves as part of this incredible growth. Lynda: Well, when you grow something like we have, from literally just the two of us in a garage to having hundreds of employees, your roles are constantly changing, and sometimes it's really sad, you know? You miss doing what you used to do.
But I think one of the discoveries that I've had is the most important role today that Bruce and I can perform is to share our values and communicate our values and make sure that everyone in the company is aligned with what our mission is and what our values are. Bruce: It's been the best decision because it's really allowed us to grow and to scale and to bring in better people and bring in better educators and bring in better data analysts and just a whole new level that took us from down here to way up here.
Eric: I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of companies over my career, and lynda.com is a very, very special company. It's a special company because of the people that I get to work with. It's a special company because of the passion around what we do, and it's really a special company because it's interesting every single day. No day is like the other day, and every single day there is a new opportunity, a new challenge, because what worked for us two years ago as a company doesn't necessarily work for us today, because there is so much change. And that really creates an interesting day-by-day opportunity.
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