Weeks before he got on stage in front of investors at a Y Combinator demo day, entrepreneur Brian Liou made a massive change in his company. Leada originally set its sights on helping students apply their data science knowledge to real-world examples, but in a pivot, it switched to providing enterprise training for employees.
“We believe data science is a fundamental skill for everyone,” Liou told VentureBeat in July. While this was a noble thought, it didn’t work with Leada’s initial vision of targeting the academic space, and the market wasn’t responding to it.
Liou explained that the major obstacle the company encountered was the sales cycle: Trying to schedule meetings with university professors during the summer was practically impossible because they’re “either on vacation or in heavy research mode.” He admitted that the metrics Leada had expected from universities didn’t materialize.
At the same time, Liou’s team had been exploring the enterprise market — it already had Zenefits on board. So Leada opted to pivot towards what it hoped would be greener pastures. That’s where it remains today, offering its services to anyone in the workplace who wants to be data literate. “The data team is still a bottleneck, and we’re trying to solve the problem by providing training to those that interface with these teams, like product managers,” Liou said.
Leada provides a customized data-training program for any employee related to their experience. The training starts with understanding BI tools, before going to SQL and then Python. Each online course takes 15 to 20 hours to complete. A Leada instructor is available to meet with students, provide code reviews, make sure that they’re keeping up with projects, and answer questions.
The training costs around $8,000 to $10,000 a year, with courses taking approximately a week to set up. Leada works with customer companies to obtain data sets and tables from projects they want to use as examples. It does receive proprietary data from its customers, but Leada signs a nondisclosure agreement that prohibits it from sharing it with anyone else.
“Eventually we want to provide a data training program that helps employees at any level become more data driven,” Liou concluded. “Companies like Airbnb have invested tons of resources in a data school to get their employees trained in their data, and we want to enable every company to have a program like this.”
The customers Leada is working with skew toward technology, such as Twitch, Zenefits, and Lendup. However, Liou wants to expand outside of tech to other sectors like finance, health care, media, and retail. The company has raised $200,000 in funding from Y Combinator and the Imagine K-12 accelerator.