Get access to Protocol
Coaches previously taught their players either in person during practices or with film analysis, plotting Xs and Os on a whiteboard. But since the spread of coronavirus, contact player time has been limited or nonexistent for most teams.
Learn to Win is an active learning platform that streamlines training for high-performance teams and has changed practicing measures. After officially launching in January 2019, the company has assisted more than 100 athletic programs that halted in-person practices as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Co-founders Andrew Powell and Sasha Seymore just raised $4 million in seed funding from Norwest Venture Partners. They plan to use their new funding to broaden product awareness, expand platform capabilities and extend into new industry categories, starting with first responders and health care companies.
"We're impressed with the team's demonstrated success with athletics and defense organizations and the platform's ability to enable learners to preempt mistakes before they happen in or on the field," said Jeff Crowe, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners.
The Learn to Win co-founders spoke with Protocol about how they plan to use their app to expand their services to the armed forces, and what happens once people go back to work.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What specific ways do you both plan to use investment from Norwest?
Powell: Norwest invested in the belief that we could really revolutionize how teaching and learning happens starting in high-performance areas, but eventually changing the learning and technology space. And by having over 100 clients in sports and three contracts with the U.S. military, I think that we demonstrated that there is real demand for our product.
Seymore: We try to be adaptable across industries and [offer] a crucial training tool for those working outside an office environment. We've partnered with leading programs, including the Carolina Panthers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and many more; the U.S. Department of Defense; first responders ... We are about to launch a partnership with firefighters and we plan to help other EMS personnel across the country, like doctors and nurses.
How does Learn to Win prepare people for high-intensity situations outside of the traditional sense?
Powell: Our core technology is broadly applicable to any sort of training problems an organization may run into, but we're seeing the best resonance in high-stakes learning where teaching and learning really make the difference, in areas like situational emergency procedures for fighter pilots, ship navigation tactics in the Navy or combat tactics for [the] top gun. And a PowerPoint presentation or a three-ring binder are not sufficient methods to meet those demands on what to do in those environments.
How does the app work?
Seymore: As a former Division I college basketball player and U.S. Naval Reserve officer, I can speak to how we've created active methods for today's digital-first learner because I've used our app for my own training. We offer three- to five-minute video and photo-driven lessons [and] web templates where instructors can design lessons and analytical dashboards that provide insight into a player's performance. Our team transforms dense manuals, long videos and other classroom-oriented training materials into quick and easy-to-learn lessons.
How will Learn to Win continue to service customers when coronavirus becomes better controlled and in-person training resumes?
Seymore: When you think about COVID, in many ways it was an accelerator for our business because it forced education technology to transform. But Learn to Win was designed well before COVID came about, following education tech trends that were already happening — and I don't see us going back. We built a tool that is pedagogically more effective — for instance, when a coach sends out a pre-quiz before meetings to see where players are struggling and [the coach can then] run meetings more effectively — and I don't see that changing.
What's next for Learn to Win?
Powell: We're excited about building an end-to-end platform that involves different modalities and experiences depending on what skill or knowledge set that a client is trying to develop is. Things like AR, VR, MR and creating this feedback loop between real-world performance and learning will be enabled by those advances in core technologies. For a while, cognitive science surpassed technology, but now technology seems to be catching up so that we can implement a lot of these principles around learning that have not previously been possible.
Seymore: We have a visionary dream that any player on a team won't be held back by their inability to learn from the playbook in the traditional sense. But we can also further our impact for anyone that is not tethered to their desk all day and needs a mobile-first learning solution. We believe in the power of active learning in every setting, and it applies to university classrooms; the field; the cockpit; on a hospital floor and beyond — and we want our tool to be the one people use to learn everywhere.
Penelope Blackwell is a reporting fellow at Protocol covering edtech. She reports on the developments in tech that are shaping the future of learning. Previously, she interned at The Baltimore Sun covering emerging news and produced content for Carnegie-Knight's News21 documenting hate and bias incidents in the U.S. She is also a recent graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and Morgan State University.