Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making an impact on UN SDG 4: Quality Education. Today’s rockstar is Juan Andres Lagrange Delfino, founder and CEO of Sunlight, and he’s excited to help companies make learning accessible to all their employees. Let’s see how he’s doing it!
Spiffy: Welcome Juan Andres, let’s jump right in! What challenges are you addressing with your new company, Sunlight?
Juan Andres: At Sunlight, we're working on connecting and financing each person to the very best learning resource for their given circumstance. To achieve this, there are several other challenges that we must first overcome. Our approach requires that each individual can choose what they believe is best for them. Any resource goes! Online courses, books, podcasts, events, coaching. To do this, we're enabling everyone to leverage their company’s learning budget in a very simple frictionless way. This provides us with a map of all learning possibilities for an individual based on their location, role, budget, and more. We will then use this information along with its impact to be able to deduce the very best for anyone in a given situation.
Spiffy: So you want to make sure anyone in any company could learn what they want?
Juan Andres: Well, our original concept was to be able to build the world’s very first learning currency. A means by which anyone could invest in anybody else's personal or professional development. We believe the technology we're developing can eventually lead to such a currency but first, we needed to solve for what are all the learning possibilities as well as develop the mechanisms to ensure readily available funds could be used in the best possible way. We believe that by further encouraging market forces in the learning space and creating mechanisms where existing budgets can be used to achieve their maximum impact, we will be able to significantly simplify how each person improves. Ultimately, we would be creating a more educated world.
Spiffy: That sounds fabulous! Can you talk about how you’re trying to create a more equitable world?
Juan Andres: Well, Spiffy, we believe education is the ultimate equalizer. As more people are exposed to new ideas and can learn about new concepts, they have better opportunities, more tools to help them solve and overcome challenges, are less prone to be manipulated by politicians, cults, religions, media, etc., and ultimately will live healthier and happier lives.
Spiffy: Are there any initiatives you’re excited to be taking on?
Juan Andres: We've been focused on working with private companies as they have two key ingredients: budgets that can be invested in professional development and people that are motivated and incentivized to be better. Our most recent milestone is being able to successfully deploy in an organization of 10,000 employees. This means all those 10,000 employees now have the tools to take ownership of their own learning path. Learnings from this implementation will go a long way towards continuing to build our technology.
Spiffy: Can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from failure?
Juan Andres: Covid-19 was the ultimate challenge. When it hit, we were forced to get creative to survive, as our company's runway was less than three months and profitability was still far away. At the time, we were very close to shutting down and were facing the very difficult decision of having to lay off 80% of our staff. Ultimately, we assembled and re-grouped with other great people in the industry to build a separate consulting business that would allow everyone to keep collecting a paycheck. This also allowed part of that revenue to be used to continue to fund our mission and has been key in our recovery.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Juan Andres: Every person using Sunlight is completely unique and has benefitted from the platform in different ways. John is one example. He’s an introverted software developer that started taking creative courses around illustration and design. It turns out he didn't want to continue writing software and was looking at working in product design. However, he had never expressed this desire to anyone. Since Sunlight provides visibility on all users, and an intrigued manager picked up on John's interests and sparked a conversation that eventually led to him transitioning roles. He is now a very successful and happy product designer. This "eyes on, hands-off" policy enables this type of "surprise" to happen in every organization we work with.
Spiffy: Those sound like the best kind of surprises. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Juan Andres, it’s been an honor!
Juan Andres Lagrange Delfino is the founder and CEO of Sunlight. He is also the founder of Akdemia, a bookworm, and a Mario Kart enthusiast. (Nominated by Pathway Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 27, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.