As part of of our BizSpark promotional activities mentioned in my previous post, we’ve started highlighting local start-ups in the BizSpark programme. Our first case study and video was with Litmos, an online Learning Management System. Here is the case study:

Litmos given a head start with BizSpark

BIZSPARK CASE STUDY – LITMOS

Providing companies around the world with the software to deliver training materials and track trainee progress has been made possible (and quicker) for Litmos with the help of the Microsoft BizSpark programme.

Three years ago Rich Chetwynd was living overseas operating a tiny company based on a training system solution he and a friend had designed for a specific customer. However, they soon realised it was worthwhile developing this further so other companies could use it, creating an on-demand platform to deliver training to a wider audience.

Now Litmos is a thriving start up company enrolled in the Microsoft BizSpark programme. Though based in Auckland, Litmos boasts 55 customers spanning Australia, North America, the UK, Europe, South America and Mexico.

Litmos’ learning management system allows trainers to upload existing materials or build new materials for their courses online. They can then monitor their trainees' progress via a reporting suite.

The typical customer already has the training content but needs assistance delivering it to staff who are potentially spread out around the country. This is where Litmos comes in, delivering and tracking the training content.

One of the company’s bigger clients is a construction company in Canada with over 1,000 contractors.

Key challenges

Juggling finances has been one of the biggest challenges for Litmos. It joined Microsoft’s Biz Spark programme a year ago and Chetwynd says the assistance it has received from Microsoft through the programme has given the company a huge financial leg up.

With access to developer software and business mentorship his business now has the Spark to succeed.

“We no longer have to fork out for development and license costs which are significant for a start up company. Now we can worry less about money and focus on making cool software.”

He says BizSpark also assists with the development of the business by promoting the company on the Microsoft website. In addition, there are benefits to having Microsoft’s name behind the company such as in their relationship with server hosting leaders, Rackspace.

“We discovered Rackspace through Microsoft and, as a result, get a discounted rate. Using Rackspace gives us a lot of kudos because it is a well known and highly thought of brand.”

“I would definitely recommend Biz Spark to any start-up as it provides a big advantage for getting things off the ground,” says Chetwynd.

Future plan

Chetwynd says the company is now well positioned for future growth. Currently it has a database of nearly 10,000 trainees registered in the system and would like to grow that to over 100,000 within the next 18 months.

He is delighted there has been a significant increase in the number of New Zealand enterprise companies come on board – particularly over the last 12 months – and will be working towards growing this further. In addition, it aims to continue developing its US market as it is a ‘Mecca’ for e-learning.

“Together with growing the company, our major focus going forward is developing a simple to use product as well as focusing on scalability.”

With a huge amount of competition in the learning management systems space, Litmos has concentrated on usability, only adding the features that are essential to running a successful online learning programme. The product is already live and is continually being developed and refined based on customer feedback and new trends in learning. 

Scalability has also been a major focus since initiation. As the potential number of end users grows rapidly, the company needs to be able to adapt at a moment’s notice. Litmos uses cloud services to achieve this capability and is looking at moving some of its infrastructure to the new Microsoft Azure cloud platform over the next 12 months.

To be eligible for the BizSpark, a company need only be privately held, less than three years old and generate less than $1 million in revenue. In return, companies get access to Microsoft developer software and business mentorship – all for only a USD $100 exit fee at the end of the programme.

“Initially the big draw card of the BizSpark programme was access to the suite of Microsoft development tools, as it allowed us to re-allocate funds into marketing and business development. Moving forward we are now seeing opportunities to gain more exposure through our association with Microsoft and BizSpark and hope to leverage the relationship over the next 12 months,” says Chetwynd.

For more information on Microsoft BizSpark, visit www.microsoft.co.nz/spark

For more information on Litmos, visit www.litmos.com