24 June 2022

Degreed acquires Learn In and a new (old) CEO

Dani Johnson
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • Degreed acquires Learn In
  • With the Learn In acquisition, David Blake will return as CEO
  • The LXP market is weird, and this acquisition falls in line with other changes we’re seeing
  • We see this acquisition benefitting Degreed in 3 ways

Degreed announced yesterday that it will be acquiring Learn In, a start-up focusing on helping organizations build talent academies. At the same time, Degreed will also acquire a new-old CEO, David Blake, one of Degreed's founders.

Details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

With all of the acquisitions in the learning tech space, some may ask what makes this one special. We think it's interesting because of all the weirdness going on in the LXP space. Many organizations have only just found budget for LXP and LMS as separate technologies, and the LXP market seems to be changing quickly:

  • Cornerstone just bought Edcast shortly before also buying SumTotal, indicating that while they want the LXP functionality provided by Edcast, they're also fully committed to the more traditional LMS.
  • More traditional LMSes are offering LXP-like functionality, blurring the line between LMS and LXP.
  • Degreed is adding functionality that will move it beyond only being an LXP.
  • Organizations we're talking to want simplicity and clarity. Implementing both types of systems can be messy and noisy.

The LXP era may be over. We may be moving to a space where there is no distinction between large learning platforms. David Wilson of Fosway says as much and has stopped categorizing systems as LXPs and LMSes in his Fosway 9-grid. They're all learning platforms.

If everything is becoming a learning platform, we wonder what's next in the learning tech space. Degreed is one of the companies that defined the LXP. We're curious as to whether this acquisition and retro choice of CEO will help to define the next space.

In the meantime, we see the Learn In acquisition being good for Degreed in a few ways.

The Learn In acquisition provides the opportunity for a course correction

From the outside, it feels like Degreed has been floundering for a while. They offer a solid product, and those that love Degreed really love Degreed, but their product roadmap is decidedly anemic. Their marketing and messaging, which used to be cutting edge, have moved them to the middle of the road.

Reinstating Dave Blake as CEO and acquiring Learn In might be the kick in the pants Degreed needs to get over this stagnation.

The acquisition of Learn In's products also gives Degreed a head start in new areas of learning tech, which brings us to our next point.

The Learn In acquisition rounds out Degreed's product offering

Degreed's current LXP offering encourages employees to learn consistently and explore content. Learn In offers 2 additional products that will increase Degreed's capabilities – capabilities that organizations are presently moving money toward:

  • Academy builder – Learn In offers tools to help organizations build skills or capability academies. These academies focus on developing specific skills organizations know they need.
  • Payments and tuition management. Learn In offers tools to simplify applying for, approving, and paying for tuition. Additional tools offer the ability to provide prepaid learning stipends for learning that may happen outside of traditional venues.

With these tools, Degreed moves beyond an LXP to a more comprehensive learning platform, addressing employees' immediate, mid-range, and long-term development goals.

The Learn In acquisition clarifies Degreed's sandbox

The purchase of Learn In and reinstatement of Dave Blake as CEO of Degreed hints at Degreed's desire to return to its learning roots. Degreed has tried its hand at being the system of record and definer of all things skills. But this acquisition puts them firmly back in the learning tech market.

This move clears up any ambiguity about what Degreed is. Degreed's rhetoric about skills the past few years has likely made other tech providers leery of partnership because it hasn't been clear how much of Degreed's functionality overlapped with their own. However, as Degreed doubles down in the learning space, would-be partners become more comfortable, and Degreed becomes easier to work with.

Which means that Degreed must also restructure the conversation around skills. Instead of being the system of record for skills, Degreed will likely focus on becoming a refiner of skills – driving recommendations, and enabling better experiences. They can also become a valuable data stream for data warehouses and analytics systems.

So…what?

As usual, this all comes down to execution. And Degreed has a mixed record when it comes to executing acquisitions (successful with Pathgather, not so much with Adepto). The acquisition of Learn In can provide the needed energy and innovation Degreed needs to move out from the pack once more. It can also be a last-ditch effort as Degreed gets pushed to the center of a pack of learning platforms. We hope it's the former.

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