Lynda - Proof That Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Everyone has their own way of giving back to the community. Starting a business with the idea of sharing knowledge and helping people follow their interests and dreams is Lynda Weinman's way of giving back to the community.
In a series of happy accidents, she first discovered the computer, then the internet, web design, and later her passion for teaching. In her most desperate and uncertain time, she combined it all into what is today known as Lynda.com!
Right at the turn of the century, when two major disasters had struck the economy, Lynda managed to persevere. She took a big risk by putting her business online and employing a different business model, but little did she know she had struck gold!
By taking the roads less traveled, she has made a difference in the world by teaching others how to do it as well.
This is a story of how following your interests without dollar signs in your eyes can lead you to your dream job - and the money too!
Read more about Lynda here:
The Humble Beginnings
Throughout elementary school, Lynda Weinman was an exemplary student who loved learning. Following her parent's divorce, she fell into an apathetic state where she gave up on learning, so her grades plummeted. By the time she got to high school, she had already been disheartened about school, but fate turned her around with a simple book.
As luck would have it, she stumbled upon a then-discontinued book called Summerhill, which described a school system much different than the one she was educated in. It was a school that allowed students to pick and choose what they wanted to learn, instead of being forced to take bulk lessons filled with both interesting and dull subjects.
To her delight, Lynda found a school that offered that type of curriculum. The only problem was it was an expensive private school and her parents couldn't afford it.
Nevertheless, her relentless character didn't allow her to give up, so she managed to convince the headmaster to allow her to attend on her $80 budget, from her hot dog stand job.
At this school, she found the passion for lifelong learning; a powerful notion that served as the premise for the groundbreaking Lynda.com years later.
The Road To Passion
After graduating from college, a close friend of hers who worked as an animator invited her to be his assistant. Here, she learned how to animate and started to work in the film industry, which opened many doors for her. One of those was the catalyst for what we now know as Lynda.com - in 1980, she discovered that computers existed!
As she became interested in computers and computer graphics, she also became interested in animation, so she found herself at the forefront of modern tech by simply following her instinct and desires. Soon, she got invited to teach at the Arts Centre College of Design.
She never would have considered it, but she discovered teaching was something she was good at and something she liked!
Self-teaching in today's world is nothing new, but this was extremely hard to pull off at a time when the Internet and personal computers were still considered a luxury rather than a necessity.
But nothing was out of reach for Lynda and her passion for learning!
After mastering the art of website creation and design, she realized comprehensible learning material on the topic was scarce, so she wrote a book in 1993. The book was called Designing Web Graphics and is considered by many to be the very first guide in the industry.
The book's success, coupled with the help of her husband Bruce Heavin led her to make the tough decision to leave the college where she taught and open a school for web design.
The dot-com Crash
Since the book turned out to be quite a success among website design enthusiasts, her husband Bruce got the idea to rent a school lab to hold the classes. They were advertised on the eponymous website, Lynda.com, as Lynda used her website to promote her classes, offer the class materials as well as connect with the readers of her book.
She was essentially the first online guru - back when they weren't hacks!
The classes instantly sold out and even managed to attract people from other countries as well. They were so successful that they invested the $20,000 they got in royalties from the book to open her web design school. Soon, they employed more teachers to keep up with the demand and managed to earn $3.5 million in revenue.
Everything was going well for Lynda until the dot-com crash closed off many internet-based businesses, followed up with the tragic 9/11. The company's business was hit hard and Lynda had to lay off 75% of her employees. The decline of students meant that they had to give up classrooms they previously leased. Everyone had to work twice as hard to keep the company's head above the water.
Unfortunately, doubling down on work didn't do the trick, and with time and money being a scarce commodity at the time, they rolled the dice one last time - putting everything online.
Fighting To Stay In Business
In desperate efforts to stay in business, Lynda and Bruce decided to move everything online. They had set up a paywall and charged $25 for a monthly subscription for what was previously a $1500 course. The revenue was badly hit, but it had to be done in the last fight to stay in business.
At the turn of the century, watching videos on the Internet or learning by yourself was uncommon. Unsurprisingly, it didn't pick up right from the start.
In the beginning, they had only 1000 subscribers that barely kept their business alive, but Lynda was patient. She knew that growing an online community would take time and she was patient enough to see it come to fruition.
By 2006, her work had paid off, and the number of subscribers had increased tenfold! Soon, things started getting even better: the company grew from the 9 employees after the dot-com crash to 150 in 2006, and 500 in 2007.
As time went on, Lynda continued to expand her courses and what started as 20 video lessons has grown to more than 6,000 courses and over 300 thousand video tutorials.
VCs Come Knocking At The Door
As the site was gaining more traction, it also gained in revenue, gradually increasing each year. With the growth came the interest of venture capitalists and in 2013, after 17 years of thriving without a dime from investors, Lynda.com raised $103 million in Series A funding. The money was used to acquire video2brain, an Austrian video learning platform.
Two years later in 2015, the company raised an additional $186 million which put its worth at a billion dollars. The money was spent towards acquiring other programming tutorial websites like Thinkful and Treehouse. Later that same year, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com in a $1.5 billion deal, ending the company's independence.
Lynda Weinman knows the struggles of setting up a business, but she also obviously knows the beauty of success, as she managed to catch the eyes of a giant like Linkedin. Part of the reason why Lynda and Bruce agreed to sell to LinkedIn was the brand's background in helping people advance in their careers through their network. Lynda.com's premise is guiding people towards their dream jobs, and it aligns well with LinkedIn's goal, so why not?
Since its acquisition, most of the courses have moved to LinkedIn learning. Linkedin has used the courses to create a tailored experience for its users, while promoting Lynda's goal of disrupting the traditional ways of learning.
Lynda is a shining example of the potential entrepreneurial success when combining brilliant, cutting-edge innovation, and life-long persistence!