Medical students often find the experience of an operating theatre to be vastly different from what they learn in their theory classes. Imagine how helpful it would be if a group of students could see the live streaming of, say, a cardiac surgery. That's what Linkstreet allows its customers to do - but that's not all.
A cloud-based learning and collaboration platform connecting learners and teachers, Linkstreet clients can create, store, manage, deliver and monetise video content. "The name means a place or street where learners and experts can be linked," said Arun Muthukumar, chief executive and director.
At present, the company has about 30 customers across the US, West Asia and Singapore, beside India. It supports courses at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Indian School of Business. Miot Hospitals, Columbia Asia, Teleradiology Solutions and Portea Medical are its other clients, as well wildlife as photographer Sudhir Shivaram.
"The platform is more than just an online learning portal. Its user-friendly features make it simple for doctors to access and share content, as well as deliver and view lectures/presentations online," said Sunita Maheshwari, pediatric cardiologist and head, Pediatric Cardiology e-Learning Programme - Bengaluru.
Madan Mohan Raj, chief programme officer, executive education, IIM-Bangalore, said, "We have been working with Linkstreet for over two years. They are our technology partners for online classes conducted by the Executive Education Programme. Their commitment and hard work has been exemplary."
Co-founders Arun, former team leader at Cisco, and Vikram Ramakrishnan, a former Booz & Co consultant, were involved in a project that delivered virtual classes from top schools to students in remote rural areas.
The success the project had in providing access to a good teacher prompted Muthukumar and Ramakrishnan to quit their jobs and launch Linkstreet in 2011.
While there are many other education technology start-ups that focus on linking the learners with tutors, most of them are highly focused only on corporates or education space. Some offer a platform to take classes and tutorials for school students, others offer various entrance coaching classes. There are a few concentrated on professional certificate courses.
What differentiates Linkstreet from these platforms is that it caters to different segments, including personal branding, companies and educational institutions. It can be used as a training platform to teach new employees on new products and projects or can be used by any individual experts to host online classes.
Unlike competitors, Linkstreet offers an end-to-end integrated solution. "The company's focus is not only on the technology but also the integrated front-end, workflow management and the product, offered as a managed service," said Muthukumar.
Almost four years down the line, the market is still huge and untapped.
Muthukumar said: "A large number of working management professionals are still unable to attend a full-time programme. There is an even larger untapped market of those who want part-time education in specific subjects while working. An online learning programme with live and recorded video sessions is a huge need and opportunity."
Linkstreet follows a subscription-based revenue model. There is a base fee for set-up as well as a fee per user, which varies from client to client. The subscription fee is Rs 200 per month per user for individuals.
Muthukumar said the company was profitable.
Expansion and challenges
The start-up, which has 40 people, is trying to double the size of its workforce this year. It secured Series-A funding from Faering Capital late last year. "Linkstreet's low-cost cloud-based video learning platform is disrupting how companies conduct training and development for employees. We are seeing strong interest from small and large enterprises which wish to utilise limited budgets and bandwidth of senior management, efficiently," said Sameer Shroff, co-founder and managing director, Faering Capital. It had also raised Rs 60 lakh in an angel round from Kushal Kumar, founding principal, Numen Capital in 2011.
"Our key challenge is low awareness among prospective clients about the applicability of our product. Clients also find developing interesting, well organised content a challenge due to lack of expertise at their end and the time and resources to do this," said Muthukumar.
Linkstreet is now eyeing expansion into other verticals beyond education and health care.
EXPERT TAKE: Madan Padaki
As I understand, they are providing an online platform for learning, primarily leveraging video content. From an industry perspective, education will move more and more online. Though the corporate learning market is very large, online learning as a model is just taking off.
With smartphone penetration increasing, 3G/4G speed availability, more people are accessing videos via mobiles. So, with their mobile platform & focus on video-based learning, they are hitting on the right notes for the market, as a lot more people will access learning via mobile.
However, from a business model perspective, apart from just providing a platform, they'll have to probably look at providing learning content as well. Without this, I am not sure how they can continue to differentiate their offerings - as there are quite a few alternatives available in the market. A lot of video technology providers have also adapted into the corporate learning space. So, the question is: how will Linkstreet be sticky enough for customers to remain loyal to the platform?
On the sales aspect, the issue on how to scale the platform from the first few customers to thousands of clients, and to truly make this a marketplace needs to be addressed.