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Dec 8, 2020    Burn Book

A Sketchy Future, To Say the Least


You could throw a rock at the American education system and hit a problem. Anyone who knows a teacher or a student knows of one issue or several– from student loan debt to underpaid teachers and a learning process so standardized that it actually makes the content and understanding shallow and short-lived in the human mind.

Disappointing numbers, but about something totally different than what’s been on everyone’s mind.

The United States scores differently in education rankings depending on the variables at which you look. For example, based on the percentage of the population going to higher education following high school and undergraduate, the U.S. ranks #1. However, in math scores we rank 38th, and science scores at 27th (source if you want it).

We’ve been steadily declining over the last couple decades as our funding for education has dropped while other countries have done the opposite. This makes it curious as to that first #1 ranking– just based on how many people attend, could this be a misleading factor for how desperate people are for living-wage work, that the only way to get there is by having an extremely advanced degree?

Either way, and whicher variables you look at, the U.S. and the world can only better from greater education (access, allocation, etc.). However if you ask us, and you should based on our own rankings of best marketing agency (in Austin, TX and the world, take your pick), a deep look at how we teach and measure student success needs to be taken before we start talking about overhauling budgets.

Follow the bread crumbs.

We think Sketchy, who reached $30 million in Series A funding this year and $7 million in subscriber revenue, agrees in this latest installment of our startup-stalking series. As educated adults with insights into psychology and learning methodologies, it’s surprising there is not greater success with diversifying how we teach (and how that education retention holds up). We know people have different learning strategies, and we know people have different strengths. People have been acknowledging this since that comic was widely published where a class full of fish, monkeys, and elephants were told they’d all be scored by their ability to climb a tree.

(We tried and failed to find the original artist for this to give credit. If you know, could you clue us in?)

Sketchy seems to change this, at least a little bit. Their platform, focused on students of medicine only so far, serves as a study tool that breaks down information (procedures, history, technique, etc.) through “Pixar-like” sketches. Given what we know about human memory– this fits with the fact that most humans remember things better and with more clarity when attached to a storyline, visual, or action.

Though it looks like a higher ed version of The Magic Schoolbus, it has been successfully helping students retain more information for complex academia. That’s pretty cool.

All the new sourdough in the world this year proves people want to spend time learning.

Our next question is, how will they market it (and wow, we hope they do) to wider audiences and expand their courses? How will they engage an apathetic general audience into learning new (and old) things in better ways? Because we definitely think everyone needs a lesson in history, economics, cultural anthropology, and politics, to name a few. Not to mention the passions and hobbies people could uncover if just given that one 101 course that sticks.

How will they stand apart from places like Udemy and Skillshare? Or will they stick to medicine only, like Codecademy stuck to code? We can’t predict the future (if we could we would have warned you all about how 2020 would be… going). We can, however, pick a needle in a haystack and predict the many paths they may go down. Failing due to lack of funding (not effectively getting their message across to the zeitgeist), lack of direction (company cultural weaknesses), or maybe, just maybe, speeding to the top of the market.

In all cases, we know one thing for sure: the foundation for it all is branding. Success hangs on the strength of internal and external strategic branding. Either created by a performance agency side by side with founders, molded by integrated marketing firms, heck, even handed on a silver platter from some business and product naming experts.

We expect a pretty major rebrand from Sketchy for these reasons. In the meantime, we may as well cash in on what we’re always talking about, how we’ve been on top because we never stop learning or consider ourselves done even after a decade, and take some courses that suit our fancy. Our sourdough in May didn’t turn out that great anyways.

Let Your Curiosity Take Control