This year has seen all kinds of traditional business models upended due to the global pandemic crisis. In the startup world, organizations have either had to pivot their positioning in the marketplace or ramp up the capacity of their current product offerings. This past month, Forbes launched a list of 25 Small-Business Survivors and Thrivers recognizing companies that have showcased “the strength, adaptability and diversity of America’s entrepreneurs, giving us hope for the country’s economic future”. Michelson 20MM portfolio company, Yellowbrick, made this list as one of only two edtech startups. Yellowbrick works in partnership with top universities and brands to create online courses/curriculum that tap into the interests and passions of learners looking for fulfilling career paths. We caught up with the founders of Yellowbrick, Ankit Dhir and Rob Kingyens, to get their thoughts.
What does it mean for Yellowbrick to thrive in 2020 and beyond?
In essence, thriving for us right now means that we keep doing what we’ve been doing all along. In a lot of ways, Yellowbrick was built for this moment. We give learners options for career education that they can engage from anywhere, on their own time, and that are designed specifically to help them forge their own paths.
The pandemic has left many with questions and concerns about the future. During lockdowns, it has given them time to reflect and self-educate. We’re glad that we can be here for the thousands of learners who have taken this as an opportunity to start a new journey. And we’ll be here for them as time goes on and the landscape shifts to whatever the “new normal” turns out to be.
What makes Yellowbrick a survivor?
Our company was built on one fundamental truth: People are happiest when they can apply their talents to the things they love. We believe that people will always seek to merge their creative interests with their career paths, and will happily pursue self-education when programs in their areas of interest are made accessible.
The pandemic has changed a great many things, but it hasn’t changed this. In fact, the tumult of the past eight months has brought a lot of these issues to the fore and encouraged learners to consider different options.
Moreover, our team brings many different skills and backgrounds to the table. We’ve all been able to learn from each other in disciplines like Education, Video Production, Editing, Business Development, Strategic Partnerships, and more. You put that all together, you have a company that is built for survival in even the toughest of times.
What’s one unexpected “win” your company has achieved during these extraordinary times?
The past eight months have been rife with almost unprecedented uncertainty worldwide. Many businesses have been hesitant to launch new products or offerings in such a climate. Yellowbrick, however, has done the opposite. We created and launched four entirely new programs, including Film & TV Industry Essentials and Performing Arts Industry Essentials, which were conceived, organized, shot, edited, and released all during the pandemic.
NYU Tisch, our education partner in these programs, was eager to innovate. Media partners Rolling Stone/IndieWire, and Backstage were happy to lend their expertise and contacts. We developed a proprietary, video production process and studios to help us create a no-touch, distanced recording studio experience so we could film during the pandemic. As a result, these programs – Film & TV in particular – have become some of our fastest-growing courses.
Yellowbrick’s business model is uniquely suited for the digital learning ecosystem brought about by the pandemic. The start-up offers online career-exploration classes in music, fashion, sports, hospitality, and gaming through partner schools including Columbia, Fashion Institute of Technology and NYU. Students can even access scholarship information directly on the Yellowbrick.co website. As businesses all across the country struggle in the face of difficult economic headwinds, Yellowbrick is experiencing increased demand and thriving in this new virtual environment. Michelson 20MM is proud of the work the company is doing to provide students with the education they need for the careers they want, and we’re excited for what the future has in store for Ankit Dhir, Rob Kingyens, and the entire Yellowbrick team.