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You Don't Need an MBA to Invent a New Business Model

January 26, 2012, 5:33 PM

Watch an extended version of our interview with Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com:

What's the Big Idea?

Lynda Weinman quite literally wrote the book on web design. She was 28 years old and managing a failing retail store when she first saw a computer, which her boyfriend brought home one day. She promptly closed the store and taught herself desktop publishing, opening shop as one of the first graphic designers in the world. “When one door closed, I always managed to find another way," she says. She brought the same attitude to the founding of lynda.com, a website, beloved by tech geeks everywhere, which aims to teach computer skills through a self-driven curriculum of video tutorials. In her words:

When we moved to this small town I started to miss teaching desperately. [My husband and I] 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. We rented a space and we thought, we’ll offer a class one week. 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.  

Of course, the dotcom crash eventually managed to destroy her entire customers base -- so Weinman decided to put all of her lessons online. "We made that critical move from physical to digital in a fairly agile manner."

What's the Significance?

Lynda.com is a case study in breaking the rules. Weinman believes that success is not about prestige or publicity, but about having the tenacity, passion, and drive to fill a very real need that you see in the world. "The problem that we were trying to solve was to share web design at the time," she says. "There is a tremendous need for people to learn technology, and the need is only accelerating."


You Don't Need an MBA to In...

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