- Romanian e-learning/e-training solution provider Colltrain started at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and came up with its first products within only a few weeks
- The solution builds on the existing ones – Zoom and MS Teams – instead of trying to replace them
- The company is looking for a kindred-spirited strategic investor, but isn’t in a haste and remains bootstrapped
As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it became apparent to many that it would change many aspects of our daily lives. Other than having survived through the pandemic, humanity managed to take away something positive from this experience – such as finally realizing and popularizing the benefits of remote work and training, which brought digital transformation to a whole set of niches.
Instant Solution Specifically for Remote Training
Romanian e-learning platform Colltrain (stands for collaborative training) was among the pioneers in their niche. Founded by the Romanian serial entrepreneur Marian Stirbescu in Spring 2020, at the very onset of the pandemic, the startup came up with a ready-to-use product in only a couple of weeks.
The key is that Colltrain chose to focus its innovation on the learning methods that were better suitable for remote education as opposed to building a new platform. Instead, the platform builds on Zoom and MS Teams.
‘Zoom offers a few generic tools like a whiteboard, a timer, and a survey tool, which can be very helpful for basic activities. These are great for ad-hoc activities, during workshops and meetings, but trainers that employ experiential learning need a higher level of sophistication. They need proper tools to repeatedly raise a high level of engagement during remote training sessions and support peer learning, which has been proven essential to the learning process,’ Mr Stirbescu explains.
To achieve the learning objectives, trainers/facilitators split the group into smaller teams and allow them to work in a dedicated virtual space (breakout rooms) supported by the videoconferencing platform. Once the participants enter the breakout room, they can work collaboratively on an activity or game (puzzle, jigsaw, mix and match, brainstorming, mystery solving, picture talk, playing cards, etc.). This is where Colltrain steps in – it offers a virtual space for collaborative work during Zoom or MS Teams breakout rooms, and a vast library of activities to support the learning process.
Free Product And Ongoing Progress
The trainers/facilitators can use predefined activity templates or design and build new ones, by using the design capabilities of the platform. Mr Stirbescu states that many trainers have chosen to transform and migrate their training activities to Colltrain to offer the same training program both in-class and online, aiming for a similar or even better level of the learning experience.
CARTA is one of Colltrain’s first products – a remote training delivery method that can be used by trainers and facilitators to achieve a high level of engagement among the participants. As soon as in 2020, Colltrain made it available for free.
‘From the very beginning, we benefited from a large pool of trainers who openly collaborated with us on streamlining our solution. We also invested huge resources in helping our clients to migrate their in-class activities for free. This was a win-win approach as we were able to develop and launch new features almost monthly. We learned a lot and proactively started developing a standard activity library to ease the start for new trainers tremendously,’ the entrepreneur admits.
The service’s most interesting features include:
- an extensive library of activities, that can be used per-se or as templates
- four master activities to help trainers design their own fun, experiential games and activities
- the possibility of sharing one’s own activities with other trainers within the team or organization
As of now, the solution is available both for freelance trainers and internal training departments. Version 3.0 is scheduled for release as soon as this Spring, and it will include an Enterprise version with an on-premise option for large organizations.
In 2022, Colltrain’s progress got recognized as the startup was admitted to the InnovX-BCR Acceleration Program. The Accelerators mentor Lucian Adrian Stroie tells ITKeyMedia that Colltrain was one of the companies that proved valuable because of the need they addressed.
‘As a trainer myself, I appreciate a place where training activities and materials can be shared and used in an open and responsible manner. Their mechanism of keeping under control copyright aspects represents added value. I liked their idea of a marketplace. Furthermore, they strive to offer a solution for a tectonic-scale change sweeping the training-delivery world that continues shifting toward online while keeping as many as possible similarities in place for both trainer and participants,’ Mr Stroie says.
‘Their innovative product, its scalability, and the professional team involved were quite convincing to us,’ InnovX’s investor alliance officer Bianca Păcurar adds.
Bootstrapped by Choice
Other than the participation in the mentioned accelerator, the startup’s only known investment is EUR 200K of bootstrapping. As Mr Stirbescu puts it, the founding team takes inspiration from Nathan Barry who was able to grow his startup ConvertKit to over USD 22M in annual revenue and the #1 software company on Inc. Magazine’s 5000 list.
According to the founder, over 100 trainers got to use Colltrain from the get-go, and now this number has grown almost 2.5X. The company’s clientele includes such household names as Banca Transilvania, DHL, Leroy Merlin, Nokia Networks, Orange, Scania, Skanska, Vodafone, and more.
From this point, the company chooses to remain bootstrapped for now, although the founders admit that some investment talks are indeed taking place. However, Colltrain is keen on finding a strategic investor motivated by changing the world of remote training delivery in the long run.
Kostiantyn is a freelance writer from Crimea but based in Lviv. He loves writing about IT and high tech because those topics are always upbeat and he’s an inherent optimist!