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EdTech: Corporate Learning

EdTech: Corporate Learning

Talespin teardown: Adding an alternate reality to corporate learning

Talespin, which made it on to SPEEDA Edge’s curated list of high-growth startups, the EDGE100, is the developer of a proprietary extended reality (XR) technology platform for corporate learning which incorporates virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). Its rapid growth has been propelled in no small part by a wave of popularity for the use of XR or immersive technology in corporate learning.
Read our EDGE Insight featuring six trends in corporate learning delivery and explore our EDGE industry hub on Extended Reality.
Talespin was featured on the EDGE100 list of startups
Talespin was featured on the EDGE100 list of startups
Source: EDGE100: The rising startups reshaping the future by SPEEDA Edge

Overview: Growth has been mostly organic

During its early days, Talespin developed one-off VR projects for several organizations that would eventually become its clients. Apart from using 360-degree video for its VR-based training, Talespin’s game engine and animation use has been key to its success since it allows assets to be recycled. Its January 2018 acquisition of Sticky Game Agency, a game studio focusing on VR and AR technologies, was vital to Tailspin’s development because just over a year later it launched its virtual human technology, a VR-based and AI-powered soft skills training tool.
The company then launched Talespin Propel for object- and process-based hard skills training the following year before introducing CoPilot Designer, a no-code authoring tool for creating immersive soft skills learning content, in 2021. Talespin continues to expand its CoPilot content library by offering off-the-shelf learning content. Users can currently access Talespin’s library of ready-made and custom content via XR devices using the Talespin App, desktop applications, and desktop streaming.
The CoPilot content library features soft skills modules on areas such as leadership and EQ, with several others still in development
The CoPilot content library features soft skills modules on areas such as leadership and EQ, with several others still in development
Note: As of April 2021
Source: VRFocus.com
Key milestones
Key milestones
Source: Compiled by SPEEDA Edge

Industry: Driven by workforce of today and tomorrow

Simulation-based training is hardly a new concept, with flight simulators being used to train pilots for decades. XR makes it possible to simulate the work environments of industries beyond merely high-consequence sectors such as aerospace, healthcare, and manufacturing, as well as business functions, for a true-to-life learning experience.
1. The needs of learning and development (L&D) teams drive demand for XR-based immersive learning.
  • Improving training efficacy and speed, and employee engagement and motivation. XR-based training provides risk-free, safe spaces to gain hands-on “experience.” It allows simulation- and scenario-based learning and can be used across the training spectrum, including with onboarding and hard and soft skills training.
  • Adapting to workforce trends such as hybrid and remote work. No longer a temporary, pandemic-era arrangement, hybrid work is becoming a more permanent arrangement. With XR technology, training programs can be designed with the hybrid workforce in mind, ensuring remote workers receive the same quality of training. Talespin reported that during the pandemic companies found XR training to be more cost-effective than deploying underprepared employees and more effective in remote work conditions.
2. Metaverse technology development drives adoption of XR-based immersive learning. The metaverse has been defined as a shared virtual environment where distinct AR and VR environments are connected, allowing individuals to move from one environment to another. We are likely to see companies increasingly conducting their business and fostering connectivity and hybrid workforce collaboration within the metaverse. The metaverse is also expected to take immersive learning to the next level: the siloed environments (or microverses) of today can be scaled to larger, shared virtual environments akin to a virtual school or academy, accommodating thousands of learners. Interestingly, Talespin intends to use its most recent funding (February 2022) to scale its platform in line with its 2015 vision for learning in the metaverse.
3. Convenience and cost advantages motivate corporations to choose XR training providers over in-house development. Building a VR training program in-house requires design and programming expertise, hardware, and an XR system (XRS; system to manage and deploy content and track training results). What’s more, the hardware, software, and accessories may need to be occasionally upgraded. Therefore, the average cost of building a complete program could range from USD 40,000 to USD 155,000. On the other hand, engaging an XR training provider could cost ~USD 350 per learner per year.

Product strengths: XR content authoring tool is a differentiator 

The Talespin platform caters to learning content creators, learning platforms, XR hardware partners, and enterprise customers. Insurance, telecommunications, technology, consumer packaged goods, finance, and healthcare are among the industries it has so far supported. While the company’s total number of enterprise customers is still unreported, it has an impressive list of clients and has entered into a few strategic partnerships for content creation and product promotion.
Talespin’s competitive advantage is that it is among a handful of companies offering the capability to author VR content. Right from its outset, its founders intended to build a platform that empowered people and could be easily scaled in tandem with VR adoption. In fact, the platform reportedly allows users to create and distribute immersive learning experiences in days (as opposed to months) and at a fraction of the cost of building an in-house VR program.
Both Talespin co-founders are experienced in film production. CEO Kyle Jackson’s career spans enterprise software development, film production, TV programming, and technology and media investment portfolio management. He has also founded and led five companies covering enterprise software, media technology, and IT infrastructure. Meanwhile, Chief Content Officer Stephen Fromkin possesses a Master of Fine Arts in Film Production from Boston University and expertise across VR, film, and commercial production. We believe the founders’ skills and experience guide the creation of rich, engaging XR experiences.
(See Appendix for details of customers and partnerships across our peer group)

Funding: Above-average among pure-play XR-based training firms

Talespin has raised USD 40.6 million in total, with its last funding round being a Series C in February 2022. Accenture is a key investor, with its venture capital arm having participated in the company’s Series C funding round and invested an undisclosed amount shortly thereafter through its Project Spotlight—an engagement and investment program for emerging technology software startups to help fill strategic innovation gaps for the top 2000 global corporations. Other notable investors include customers such as Pearson (through Pearson Ventures), Go1, and Farmers Insurance; sales partner Cornerstone OnDemand; and investment firms such as SEEK Investments, Allomer Capital, Sony Innovation Fund, and HTC (whose products include the HTC Vive XR device).
Among our select group of peers, Talespin’s funding is second to Strivr’s, which has so far raised a total of USD 86 million, not considering ELB Learning, whose VR training product is part of a larger portfolio of corporate training solutions, nor public firm The Glimpse Group, whose VR product for corporations is one of nine VR businesses. While serving an illustrious client base, Strivr’s solutions include a VR content library and bespoke VR experiences, with no VR content authoring tool currently available. Strivr joined Accenture Ventures’ Project Spotlight in April 2022.

Future: Ready to ride the mass adoption and metaverse waves

The use of VR in corporate training is going mainstream; Talespin is well-placed with its content authoring tool. VR technology has matured and corporations such as Walmart, Bank of America, MGM, Albertsons, FedEx, JetBlue, GE, Sprouts, and Verizon have begun using it to train their frontline workers. So we can expect the technology’s broader adoption going forward. Additionally, Talespin’s no-code authoring tool places content development squarely in the hands of learning content designers, allowing for faster scaling.
Talespin is poised to take immersive learning into the metaverse. The company appears committed to expanding its VR learning content library, having already mapped out its soft skills content portfolio indicating the available modules and those in development. Talespin is also dedicated to achieving its vision of enabling learning in the metaverse, which it articulated at its founding in 2015 and validated on completing its recent funding round in February 2022.

Risks: Data privacy carries the highest risk across the industry

The risks Talespin is exposed to are common across the XR technology industry. Failure to address them will negate the benefits of immersive learning and could possibly threaten the very use of XR for learning.
The collection of sensitive data raises privacy and security concerns. The collection of personal data such as body movements (e.g. gaze tracking), location, and biographic, biometric, and demographic information are essential for the core functions of XR products. But concerns have been raised about inferences or predictions that may be drawn from this data which may not always be accurate, and the user’s choice in providing such data. US federal and state data privacy laws already govern the collection of such data for immersive experiences and the implementation of stricter laws could limit certain XR functionality.
At a basic level, education and consent are crucial for risk mitigation. Users should be educated on the data being collected, how it is used, and the non-essential computing practices which they can opt out of. Organizations must have clear policies for data storage, access, and retention to mitigate the risk of unauthorized access. Users should also be allowed to review their profiles to check for wrong inferences.
Physical side effects of using XR. These include stress, anxiety, headaches, nausea, and eyestrain. In some cases, it may even cause injury through users stumbling over a real world object. XR training providers would need to work on making XR training safe through content design and alternative formats.
The learning experience may be incomplete. Unlike with traditional learning, employees may not be able to make suggestions and ask questions during the simulation. There may also be limitations on how quickly or easily training programs can be modified to accommodate employee requests.

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