Mooky Skills was among our 2014 finalists, and one of the 20 projects selected over 600 applicants. We accompanied their growth during the entire incubation process until the final steps in Barcelona. A few months later, we were curious to see how the business was evolving and it was a pleasure to witness their development.
Mooky Skills was created in November 2013, from an idea originating at the Hackaton Open e-Education. They coded the website and developed the project, aiming at the integration of MOOCs within companies by referencing all types of jobs, plus focusing on integrating unemployed workers through e-learning. Their idea won the Open Classrooms Prix Coup de Coeur. Then the team decided to apply for the Open Education Challenge 2014 and their seed of an idea grew into a more concrete project.
We asked a few questions to Sarah Nafaa, co-founder of Mooky Skills about the past, present and future of the start-up.
How have you moved forward since the Barcelona workshop?
When we came back to Paris after the OEC final, we were like in a big tornado, asking ourselves what we could do and if we had the skills to improve our project. We felt like something big was going to happen.
We knew that going it alone is very difficult so we contacted a company called LeanUp founded by Douwe Wester, and he accepted to help us. The first thing he told us was “Ok guys, you did it in the wrong way; let’s do it again.” And from that day on, we worked on reshaping Mooky Skills, talking to customers, looking for the best solutions. That’s why we developed a B2B product that fits with our vision and the market. It was not easy at all; in November and December we were feeling really discouraged but we moved on and since January everything has been moving along faster and better.
What were the main challenges you had to face? What does a start-up have to keep in mind when facing similar situations?
I think the main challenges are more psychological and personal than professional when you want something so much and you don’t achieve it quickly. You begin to doubt yourself, to believe you have bad ideas. Ben Horowitz calls this step “the struggle" and I think that this is what determines if you have the shoulders strong enough to make it happen.
The first thing to keep in mind everyday is the answer to this question: “Why did I begin this project ?” This is your engine. Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help; it’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of courage. So DO ask people to help and they actually will.
How is Mooky Skills making a difference in education?
The thing is that we haven’t set aside traditional educational methods. We believe in the power of complementarities.
By combining traditional education (with an instructor) and e-learning (with Moocs and other new contents), our strength and distinction comes from adapting education to each individual. We don’t all have the same brain and we don’t all have the same style of learning. In a hyper-consumer society, where everybody is expected to look like his neighbors, we prefer to see everybody as special. Mooky Skills will give people the desire to learn!
What are the next steps for Mooky Skills?
We are signing with our first client. So the next step is to do it right and get a lot of feedback. We plan to build a new learning platform for companies and recruit trainers. And for that we will need to secure additional money. Those are our next steps.
What future do you see for MOOCs?
This is just the beginning for Moocs and so there are still a lot of things to explore.
Before talking about MOOCs specifically, we should talk about digital technology. I think that in a few years we will have to digitise southern countries such as Mali, Cameron or Algeria. And after that, MOOCs will be a huge instrument to create value in these countries.
I used to say that MOOCs are a weapon of massive reconstruction. As John Lennon wrote, “You may say I’m a dreamer,” but it actually is what I think. Yet there is still a lot of work to do, especially in France.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Never give up… I think that is one of the most commonly given pieces of advice but it actually is the best one. The fact is you never know how close you are to success.
The second one is to network. In fact, the days of building a startup in your garage are over. Today you have to go out, to ask questions, to listen, to find your place in the market. Never count the hours, even if it means coming back home at 1 a.m.; don’t worry because all the effort you put in today is an investment in your future.
Sarah offered this final insight: “May I just add a comment about the OEC: I think it is the best contest we did; we learn about our project, about ourselves, about others. We were with business professionals and all the advice they gave us was really useful. We are still in contact with some participants and they help us from time to time. So I recommend that all startups do it, you will not regret it! Good luck, guys!”