Futurelearn accounts read like the script of a disaster movie. Nearly 10 years I wrote a piece questioning their choice of CEO (he came from BBC Radio), knew nothing about this business and was saying some silly things….
“In three years’ time we hope to be offering a level of online learning that we can’t dream about at the moment” says Simon, “It may sound ridiculous in ambition, but one of my team said to me that in five or 10 years, rather than hanging out on Facebook of an evening, people will feel they can hang around in the Futurelearn product.”
It’s lack of business expertise, led it to hire to many BBC types at inflated salaries. This led to shallow technology, a failure to read actual demand (drift towards vocational) and an obsession with ‘social’ learning and poor technology. It has taken them a long time to hire a new CEO, after the company nearly collapsed, and to be fair, although he knows diddly squat about this industry, and is still bleating on about ‘social’ learning, he does have a solid business background. He’s clearly been brough in to turn it around.
But here’s the rub. It is a financial disaster. After ten years, virtually alone in the UK market, it has a whopping £16.1 million loss on £11.3 million revenues. With £15.7 million on salaries, it’s drowning, with its nose and lips are barely above water. After an investment to save it from disaster in only 2019, it needs £15 million to keep it going. The auditors had to send this cannonball over their bows….
“a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the group’s ability to continue as a going concern”.
All of this after the gift that was Covid. I'd be concerned if I were a partner. There are other fish in this ocean, who have managed to explode in revenues and pivot when necessary. Futurelearn, were never the 'future' and failed to 'learn'. They had an open goal back in 2012 but they were hidebound by being stuck in some British BBC time warp, with no real business acumen and no vision. That’s a shame.