Excitement is in the air for Durham-based Talented as the startup participates in the Techstars Atlanta program. Talented is one of 10 startups accepted to this year’s Techstars Atlanta 13-week accelerator. What was originally a startup that creates one hour micro-courses in which users can practice a few minutes each day to learn a new skill is now looking to a bigger future.
For CEO Danvers Fleury, who created Talented with Co-Founder and CTO Kurt Grandis, running a company is not a new endeavor. He started his own company as a teenager selling MP3 players during the dotcom boom, before iPods even existed. Then he served in marketing management roles at Domania (an early Zillow-like site that was acquired by Lending Tree), Equinox and CircleLending.
But the push for his current startup Talented came while working at Verified Studios, a company he co-founded, which designs higher education websites and online marketing services. There, he became curious about knowledge retention and certification and how he could apply this to a learning platform. When he asked colleagues and companies about the value of their workforce development programs and the return on investment, he came to a realization.
“After about 20 conversations, the only answers I was getting was ‘we don’t know what the ROI is and we don’t think it’s really doing too much,’” Fleury said. “And I thought, holy smokes—adult learning is broken. And that was sort of the beginning of Talented.”
Founded three years ago, Talented is different from the startup it once was. Talented’s micro-courses allowed users to apply their learning at work by producing confidence-building evidence that showed mastery of a skill; for example, creating a meeting agenda to demonstrate evidence of meeting-planning skills. But at Techstars, Fleury and the Talented team began to think bigger on how to use their rich database on where people can grow and excel both professionally and personally.
“We’re moving towards a more adaptive system that takes that data into account and then actually helps people practice until they reach the point of efficiency, which we think is powerful,” Fleury said. “We’re also realizing that we have the opportunity to build a workforce mobility platform, so if you could imagine right now, and I think this is the case for a lot of people whose careers came to fruition in the Great Recession. There’s a number of people who have jobs where they don’t get the chance to show what they’re truly capable of.”
Fleury said Talented’s forward-looking data can give employees the opportunity to show employers they’re ready for the next step of further leadership and advancement opportunities, while also discovering their own future. Meanwhile employers would pay a monthly subscription fee to give their employees access to the workforce mobility platform.
“We can see pretty clearly, based on proof, that this person might be a rising star that the company hadn’t been able to identify,” Fleury said. “So this notion of really connecting real-world stakes to capability development is something we’ve always been passionate about. But now we’ve sort of been given the guidance and mentorship and resources to realize, oh, we can actually make that connection. We already generate that data; we just need to change how we share it and visualize it. It’s been an exciting six weeks.”
Techstars Turbo-charging Development
The six weeks under the mentorship and resources of Techstars Atlanta have brought this change in how Fleury looks at Talented and its vision for the future. On Demo Day, Oct. 15, Fleury will share more on how Talented hopes to develop its new product and focus on finding development partners to build a holistic program that automates the entire professional development program and puts it on the Talented app.
“They demanded that we think bigger and more holistically,” Fleury said. “And that’s been a huge gift. It’s tough to describe just the resources and the brainpower that we’ve been able to get access to, to look at our company and really reimagine the scope of its impact.”
Before Techstars Atlanta, Talented, which has 11 clients, was a part of Duke University’s Behavioral Economics Lab in the Center for Advanced Hindsight. The startup has raised around $180,000 from Duke and Techstars altogether.
Fleury is a deep believer in opportunity, and this guides his vision for the impact Talented can make, one that goes beyond profit.
“I think if you look at a lot of problems we face as a global society, if you look at a lot of mistakes or ill deeds that people make, it comes from a feeling of having less or being less,” Fleury said. “And I think inequality, real and perceived, is this really big problem. So the dream here would be to create a platform that’s a safe and convenient place for people to discover capabilities they never knew they had, or to confirm capabilities they knew they had but weren’t able to prove.”