Meet Pollen, a new French startup that wants to provide a better way to learn new skills. Instead of working with full-time teachers, Pollen invites business executives and top performers in the tech industry so that they can host a class with a small group of people.
Behind the scenes, Pollen was co-founded by Julie Ranty, the former managing director of Viva Technology, a popular tech conference that takes place every year in Paris, along with Olivier Xu and Vincent Huguet. And Huguet knows a thing or two about marketplaces, as he’s the co-founder and co-CEO of Malt, a freelancer marketplace. He’s still very much focused on Malt, but he contributes to Pollen in a non-operational role.
“I’m convinced that the best professional training courses today are given by people who aren’t trainers yet. They are working professionals and they are willing to share their secret sauce with you, their experience, their work methodology and highly actionable content — not just inspiring content, but actionable content for the next day,” Pollen CEO Julie Ranty told me.
And the reason Pollen focuses on the tech industry is because it changes all the time. If you work for a tech company, chances are you are using — or thinking about using — generative AI in one way or another. Or you may be trying to implement a new, sophisticated sales method. Or you want to tweak your pricing and monetization strategy.
Pollen has already attracted 40 people working in the tech industry who are hosting classes on Pollen’s behalf. The typical course is a four-hour course followed by a lunch break so you can share tips with other people in a laid-back atmosphere. It can also be an eight-hour all-day course with a lunch break.
The company also offers online classes, but most people prefer in-person courses. “With online classes, it isn’t an eight-hour Zoom tunnel, it’s two-hour blocks spread over two weeks. You get four times two hours over two weeks,” Ranty said.
A marketplace for professional development
There are four reasons some tech workers accept to create courses for Pollen. First, Pollen takes care of all the pesky tasks that come with becoming an instructor.
“A solution like Pollen helps you develop your course and, on top of that, manages the whole admin, sales, marketing, customer relations side of things,” Ranty said. “It also teaches them — because we’ve developed a Pollen methodology with pedagogical experts — it also teaches them the fundamentals of how to share their expertise.”
The second and third reasons you would want to join Pollen’s group of trainers is that it can personally help you on a professional level because you appear as an expert in your field, and you get to meet other instructors and grow your network.
Finally, Pollen pays its trainers. “They’re paid to do this, but it’s definitely not the main reason why they choose to do it,” Ranty said.
Pollen is positioning itself as an upskilling platform for existing companies. It wants to convince HR managers that they should allocate some of their training budget toward Pollen courses.
In the coming months, the startup is going to apply for the Qualiopi certification, which means that it’s a serious professional development company that offers high-quality courses. The startup expects to be able to offer 300 different sessions in 2024 — overall, 3,000 people could attend a Pollen course in 2024.