Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com, explains how she broke all the rules and made it to the top.
Lynda Weinman: Our company started because I had been a teacher and I loved teaching and I had written a book that was the first book that was published on learning web design, and the book became a national and an international best seller and caused me and my husband to realize that we could move to a smaller town. We lived in Los Angeles and we bought a home in a rural community and had this fantasy that we would live on book royalties and he was an illustrator at the time and that he would be able to still service all of his clients.
When we moved to this small town I started to miss teaching desperately, and so he had this idea that maybe people would come to me instead of me going to people - because I was doing a lot of traveling and a lot of consulting and so his idea was, let’s rent a high school computer lab over spring break and put a notice on Lynda.com that we were offering classes, and let’s see if anybody comes. It’s a way to test this idea.
So much to my surprise people came from all over the country to this class and one person came from Vienna, Austria, and it kind of blew our minds. And we realized the power of the internet, that it was not only local, but it was national and it was global, and so it gave us the encouragement, that early success, to start an actual school. And we rented a space and we thought we’ll offer a class one week out of the month and the rest of the month we’ll use it as our studio. But the problem was that the classes became so popular that we started to run them all the time and eventually started to hire other teachers, and we became the first school in the world that taught web design during the dotcom boom.
Then two forces beyond our control happened: the dotcom crash, which dried up all of our customers basically to come to our school, and 9/11, where people didn’t want to travel anymore and the majority of people coming to us were remote. And so we had to think about how we were going to sustain and continue to teach.
We decided to put all of our lessons online, all of these videos online. We made that critical move from physical to digital in a fairly agile manner. I would say it took us about a year to make that transition, and I have watched a lot of other businesses not allow themselves to be disruptive and reinvent themselves when they hit a big problem like we did.
So I think the problem that we were trying to solve was to share web design at the time. We really started in the web design space and what we realized was that people loved our teaching approach and really were so grateful to get the education delivered in this very kind of approachable fashion, empathetic fashion, and that they started to ask us for all kinds of other training and continue to this day. The number one request that we get from our members and even nonmembers is, when are you going to teach X or Y or Z? There is a tremendous need for people to learn technology, and the need is only accelerating.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd