At the start of the pandemic, the world not only came to a standstill but also realised that education need not be in person. While online learning was already a thing, the pandemic gave it a boost and welcomed all of us to the world of hybrid learning.
If the wave of edtech startups raising millions of dollars aimed to skill students and teenagers, there is also a subset of startups bridging the talent gap with the same model. One such startup is Amsterdam-based Winc Academy, which offers online courses for anyone to learn in-demand digital skills.
Started in 2018 by Carla Snepvangers, Joran van Aart, and Marijn Pijnenborg, Winc Academy addresses the very fact that every job is now a tech job. Digital skills are no longer a need but a necessity. If big tech is upskilling its employees, Winc Academy is doing the same at the grassroots level and its story is enlightening to say the least.
Addressing the skills gap
As serial entrepreneurs in tech startups, the co-founders of Winc Academy were able to recognise the difficulty faced by employers trying to attract talented tech people. They noticed companies fighting for the same talent at the same time while many people had jobs that would disappear within a few years.
It is well documented that hundreds of millions of people are currently at the risk of losing their jobs if they don’t boost their tech skills. “That skills gap was our key motivation to start Winc Academy,” says Joran van Aart, CEO of Winc Academy. “We wanted to help these people. This felt like a meaningful challenge, where we could make a difference.”
Joran says it is important to realise that traditional educators are unable to solve this problem and face-to-face education is often too expensive. To overcome this challenge, they decided to create a solution that takes the best of online education–low costs, accessibility, and flexibility– and pairs it with best of in-person education–peer community, feedback, and personal approach.
Joran describes Winc Academy as an online tech academy that offers courses for adults to learn in-demand digital skills, with smart personalised guidance. Through its courses that range from several days to half a year, learners can improve their careers by learning coding, data, business apps like Salesforce, digital marketing, and more.
Revamping business model
Winc Academy started with a full-time education model where learners had to free up six weeks of their time. Joran says this required a “strong dedication and a leap of faith.” He says the challenge for learners was also the need to pause or quit their job and rely on their savings while they upskilled or reskilled themselves.
After seeing this struggle, Winc Academy revamped its entire business model and switched to a fully “on-demand” model. Under this model, learners pay for the courses before they start or in instalments. The courses range from €995 to €4,495 and learners can arrange financing on their own or via their employer or public funds such as UWV or the STAP budget.
The advantage for learners is that they can study anytime, anywhere, and at their own pace. “This really brought us into the next gear: a whole new target audience was suddenly considering Winc Academy, since they could now combine their education with other responsibilities such as work or family,” Joran says.
The business model is not only viable but has also attracted funding from angel investors and venture capital funds. In December 2021, Winc Academy raised a $3M in a funding round led by Rubio Impact Ventures and Dutch Founders Fund to train 20,000 IT professionals in Europe.
Rise helps understand and address talent gap
Winc Academy was one of the nine Dutch scaleups to join batch #8 of Techleap.nl’s Rise programme. Joran says they believe that entrepreneurs should “never stop learning” and the Rise programme offers them a platform to continue their learning.
He says they appreciated the coaching, networking and the opportunity to share their experiences with other Dutch startups. “When taking a helicopter view, many of us face similar challenges. It is valuable to be able to discuss these challenges and share ideas and experiences,” he adds.
Joran says, “Of all the challenges a company faces, attracting and retaining talented people is the most important one. This is exactly why we created Winc Academy. So yet again, we were made aware of the urgency of the problem we are solving, and the need for our tech academy.”
For Joran and Sijmen van Groningen (COO), who joined the Rise programme, the real inspiration has been to meet and learn from some great entrepreneurs. Joran specifically mentions the opportunity to meet the founders of companies like Picnic and Remote.com, and experienced investors like Northzone as inspiring.
Leading tech academy in Europe
“Giving everyone a chance at a better future by learning in-demand digital skills,” is Winc Academy’s mission, says Joran. He says the need for personalised online education in tech is huge and millions of adults will need to learn advanced digital skills.
He says everyone deserves a chance at a better future by learning these in-demand digital skills. “Our ambition is to become the #1 tech academy in Europe,” says Joran.
Winc Academy aims to accomplish this goal by developing more courses and offering short upskilling courses. These courses will be designed for professionals and teams. The startup also aims to expand internationally to amplify its impact.
“To accelerate our growth in all mentioned directions, we’re considering further fundraising in 2023 and onwards,” he added.
For Joran, Carla, and Marijn, Winc Academy is not just a tech academy but a venture designed with social impact in mind. The startup has served nearly 3,000 learners and the graduation rate is incredibly high.
“Many learners indicate their education at Winc Academy helped them find a new job, get a promotion, get more responsibilities, or get a pay rise. This is already a success,” he says.