and the Power of Authenticity

Image: Paul Wellman

Image: Paul Wellman

Through the years, many of our most promising companies have come from modest beginnings. The entrepreneurs at the heart of each company focus on big problems, often inspired by personal experiences. They are mission-driven and outcome-oriented, always striving for consistent improvement and growth. They understand it’s a multi-year journey that requires uncommon conviction to avoid getting distracted by the exhilarating highs and the humbling lows. The spotlight doesn’t really matter. They seek customer loyalty rather than personal fame. They are authentic to the core. holds true to these ideals. So it’s with great pride today that we celebrate the next chapter in its storied evolution, as the pioneer in online education joins the LinkedIn family. Together, and LinkedIn will advance a shared mission of making life-long learning accessible to everyone. 

We are thrilled Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin  have combined forces with Jeff Weiner, a friend of Accel who we’ve admired as a leader and an entrepreneur for years. We think the marriage of’s expansive and rich content library with LinkedIn’s vast professional reach will profoundly impact the way people around the world accomplish their creative and career goals. 

Just as the company has helped millions of professionals become better at their craft, so Lynda the entrepreneur has done the same for me over the years. And as I reflect on all that I’ve learned from working alongside Lynda, Bruce, Eric Robison and their talented executive team, a few important lessons stand out:           

1. The Power of Authenticity

In 1995 Lynda and Bruce created their company to answer a question about a very basic and personal problem—how can we help people learn the fundamental digital skills to compete in an increasingly online world? Staying true to the spirit of this endeavor—authentically—meant sticking to core values that sometimes put progress in the mission before peripheral revenue opportunities. With a beautifully simple business model and a deep-seeded commitment to their values, Lynda and Bruce built something extraordinary that we’re proud to have been part of.   

2. Build on Sound Fundamentals

Amid all the talk these days of unicorns, bubbles, and impending market crashes, offers a refreshing reminder that strong business fundamentals can transcend economic cycles. By offering a product that customers love, at a reasonable price they are willing to pay, and with a constant vigilance for the student experience, Lynda has built a business that’s been profitable and highly recurring from day one. It thrived during the dot-com crash and the “great recession,” experiencing double- or triple-digit growth each year for nearly two decades.

3. Entrepreneurship Happens Everywhere

From our vantage point in Silicon Valley we are impressed every day with the talent and intellectual acuity that surrounds us. But we also have a deep appreciation for entrepreneurs far outside the Valley. Those who leverage modern tools like virtualized infrastructure and lightweight collaboration software, and those who tap into pockets of the very best local talent, to efficiently scale world-class companies in places like Vancouver, Lincoln, Troy, Sydney, Montreal, Burlington and (in this case) Carpentaria, California.  

4. Cultivate a Family…at Work

The vibe at’s Southern California headquarters is eclectic—it is literally a movie studio, a sales organization, a software design firm and a classroom all under one roof. But despite wide-ranging backgrounds and varied professional specialties, what unites the team is a sense of family and a pride of belonging to something bigger. The founders’ commitment to running a highly efficient business is matched only by their desire to foster a sense of family among the folks who helped to shape it.

5. No Shortcut to Greatness’s greatest competitive advantage, its rich video library, grew in size and breadth every year thanks to the contributions of 250+ teachers, who traveled to Southern California to record 130,000 videos on more than 2,000 subjects. As education technology became a “hot” sector and venture dollars flowed to competitors who tried to catch up by outsourcing, crowdsourcing or licensing content, it was clear that there is simply no replacement for focus and commitment over an extended period of time. Today, for every teacher, content planner, production team member, video editor, and for the hundreds of employees who impact’s library, we’re thrilled to see the hard work rewarded.  

To Lynda, Bruce, the leadership team of Eric Robison, Elaine Kitagawa, Andrew Wait, Tanya Staples and your talented team of 500+, we’d like to offer an enthusiastic congrats and a humble thank you from your family at Accel. co-founder Lynda Weinman speaks about the power of design and problem solving at the 2014 Accel Design Conference