Framework, a platform dubbed as the ‘Duolingo of MBAs’ recently secured £1.5 million in funding to develop and launch its learning platform for startups. Led by LearnStart and with investment from angels like Brent Hoberman, Claire Novorol and Victoria van Lennep, Framework is an eagerly anticipated product: there are over 4,000 people hoping to get one of the 100 beta testing slots.
The platform spun out of the successful ‘alternative MBA’ offered by the Founders Academy, and is the product of co-founders Asha Haji and Riya Pabari, who discovered that opposites do not just attract, but they also make incredibly good co-founders. “I am pretty much the exact opposite of Riya,” Haji told TFN. “Riya started off in business, then became more technical. I was a computer science graduate, but knew I wanted to have a company, so I followed the traditional route, went to Harvard and did my MBA.”
A mutual connection introduced the two when Pabari was looking for a co-founder, and they discovered that Haji was an almost perfect match for what she was looking for.
The challenge faced by founders
Framework is not just another learning platform, but intended to help founders and startup staff, who can see their ideas, and their businesses, grow rapidly: taking them from their core competencies that are the startup’s foundation, to having to manage a large business.
With their formal training, Pabari and Haji both saw that, for many founders, this was a struggle.
“I’ve talked to CEOs and founders now running a business with 250 people, and saying ‘maybe we should have HR!’” says Haji. The problem that startups face is that although there are many programmes available where teams can learn the skills they now need, none are suitable for people who are in the middle of operating a rapidly scaling business. “They don’t have a solution that’s fit for the journey that they’re on,” Haji says, “that was the impetus for us building Framework.”
Framework is intended to fill that gap, providing information that’s both accessible and actionable, without requiring founders to take time away that they simply cannot afford.
What Framework offers
Having gone through the more traditional approach, Haji is fully aware of both the benefits, and the disadvantages, of the formal education model. The material and the contacts are invaluable, but they require a considerable investment of time.
Pabari and Haji, therefore, designed a model they knew would work, delivering the benefits in a way that can be accessed by those working in the tech startup sector they now inhabit.
The platform combines fifteen-minute ‘Frameworks’, which can be accessed at any time. It also offers live sessions during office hours, allowing members to benefit from live teaching and coaching. And they can also connect with others on the Framework platform, allowing the professional networking that many say is the real the benefit of attending prestigious MBAs.
“We had hundreds of product development conversations to discover the pain points,” says Haji. “Lack of time was the big one, they needed what we built to be bite-sized and quick. And it had to fit in with their schedule too, you can’t offer synchronous education experiences and expect it to make sense for these types of companies.”
The result is a product that founders and their teams can carry in their pockets. Framework is accessible whether they are following a programme in their spare moments, or just need to have something on hand to research when they need some information.
A programme for everyone
Haji is particularly eager to point out the practicality of the service for startups, recognising the challenges faced by staff which are unlike anything faced before. “Many people who work at these companies are getting way more responsibility than they’ve ever had in their lives,” Haji explains. “And they can only see the world in front of them. They don’t know what’s going to happen in six months, and they might not even know what they need to learn to be successful.”
This is one of the reasons that the current trend of offering learning and development budgets is flawed. While it looks like a positive offer, staff, unsure how to spend it, often never use it. Research has suggested that as little as one-in-five staff with a budget actually utilise it.
Framework is, deliberately, entering both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets. The strategy is deliberate. While Haji concedes that the B2B market is the bigger, she also recognises, that they need to make a product that is relevant to consumers.
“With a lot of B2B products, the UX is terrible because all they had to do was sell it at an enterprise level.” Haji explains. The decision to offer B2B and B2C products means that Framework is not just sold to decision-makers, but also to learners. Haji stresses the importance of this, “we want to hold ourselves accountable to learners. And that means we have to create a really meaningful, helpful learning experience.”