Saturday, March 07, 2009

Interview with Joe Gustafson, Brainshark: Innovators in E-Learning Series

What is your name, your position, and your affiliation and what is your involvement in Brainshark?

I’m Joe Gustafson, the CEO of Brainshark. I founded the company in 1999 to create a simpler, faster, cost-effective way for organizations to deliver learning and information to their employees, customers and partners. Using Brainshark, organizations can significantly accelerate learning programs and leverage subject matter experts to rapidly create and deliver compelling multimedia presentations and eLearning courses.

What is Brainshark and what is its mission and vision?

Today, Brainshark ( is the leader in multimedia for the enterprise, helping businesspeople to transform static business and training content into high-impact on-demand presentations. Our products enable users to communicate faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.

Brainshark has democratized the use of multimedia – making it possible for any businessperson and subject-matter expert to easily deliver knowledge and information in an engaging format that is effective for knowledge retention and can be experienced on demand, anytime, anywhere.

All of our offerings are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and can be implemented in days. Today, Brainshark is being used by more than 1,000 companies for training, as well as marketing, selling and corporate communications. For learning applications such as compliance training, sales training, and customer training and channel certification, Brainshark provides a quick and cost-effective way to educate geographically dispersed audiences in a consistent and convenient manner.

Welcome to an interview with Joe Gustafson, Brainshark, an innovative solution for generating effective instructional multimedia and webinars. Brainshark includes hosting as well as a simple interface. Instructional strategies meet current economic realities. Software as a Service makes it affordable for organizations to adapt to the times at a financially viable level.

What new products and services do you have?

I’m very excited about a new aspect of our business: the Brainshark Content Network ( It’s an online marketplace of on-demand, user-generated content for business learning. The site has really taken off and is continually expanding. You’ll find content on a wide range of business topics – from Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance to Creating a Greener Company.

By tapping into a vast universe of experts – allowing any expert to publish content at no cost and providing a targeted distribution channel of businesspeople and organizations seeking relevant expertise – our Content Network turns the traditional way of creating and acquiring eLearning content on its head. Organizations can easily acquire these training topics and customize them to their needs.

This content is both free and fee-based and invites community involvement – allowing viewers to rate, comment on and share the presentations they see. In fact, leading eLearning research firm Bersin & Associates last month dubbed Brainshark a “2008 Learning Leader” due to our development of the Content Network, which the firm called “a YouTube-like open market for e-learning.”

What do you identify as the key new trends that have made Brainshark beneficial to people?

In this economy, there isn’t a company we’ve talked to lately that isn’t trying to reduce costs, and that is causing many to rethink the way they’re delivering learning. In many situations, they’re canceling annual sales meetings, freezing or reducing travel, and generally trying to do more with less.

Because Brainshark provides a very cost-effective way to create and deliver training, we’re seeing strong demand. In fact, we’ve developed a micro-site, available for viewing here, with examples of how our customers have realized cost savings and aligned their organizations for the road ahead.

Another important trend we see is the growth of informal learning. Training professionals are looking for ways to enable informal learning within their organizations, and many are searching for the right tools to empower employees. They’re concerned with how to manage the quality of user-generated learning without being a bottleneck. Brainshark provides several ways for companies to allow SMEs across the company to self-publish compelling content and for training professionals to manage quality and provide self-organizing portals to share, search for and access learning. It is absolutely where the direction of learning is headed.

How does Brainshark work? Can you provide one or two examples?

Making a Brainshark presentation is intuitive and virtually goof-proof; in fact, I’d invite you to get a taste of the process – for free – here: All you need is a Web connection and a telephone, and you can see how easy it is to add your voice to a presentation.

Step 1: Upload a presentation. Normally, a user would upload his/her PowerPoint presentation to the Web to get started; here, to simulate the process, we simply ask you to select a template.

Step 2: Add your voice. You’ll see simple instructions appear in the browser window. Using your phone, dial the toll-free number, and when prompted, enter the presentation access code provided. In your browser, you’ll see the first slide of a sample presentation, and on the phone, you will hear voice instructions similar to using voicemail. You’ll press “1” on your phone to start recording, and you can begin to record voice to your slides. (In this case, a script is provided for you!) Should you slip up or forget something, you can start over on a particular slide at any time.

Step 3: View your presentation! Your Brainshark presentation is e-mailed to you as a link, which you can also e-mail to others. Whenever someone views your presentation, you will be alerted via e-mail of that person’s identity and contact information, and how long they viewed your presentation.

Of course, in our full product, there are a lot of “extras” – including the ability to add surveys, quizzes and polls; incorporate video; set course completion requirements; run reports and more!

Welcome to an interview with Joe Gustafson, Brainshark, an innovative solution for generating effective instructional multimedia and webinars. Brainshark includes hosting as well as a simple interface. Instructional strategies meet current economic realities. Software as a Service makes it affordable for organizations to adapt to the times at a financially viable level.

Please describe upcoming activities.

We recently launched a new program for non-profit organizations that includes a quarterly license grant as well as a discount program for qualifying non-profits, and we’re getting ready to announce our latest grant recipient. On the non-profit section of our Web site, you can learn about one of our recent grant recipients, the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, who used Brainshark to train 5,000 volunteers – saving tens of thousands of dollars, as well as weeks and months of staff and volunteer time.

In challenging times, using technology is an essential way for non-profits to leverage their resources, and so many organizations have communication and training challenges that we can help solve. Several of our current customers have inquired about using Brainshark for the causes and organizations they are involved in outside of work, and we’d love to see even more grant applications and inquiries.

Optional question: How can Brainshark help develop human capital and resources? How can it contribute to a global economic recovery?

Brainshark helps organizations share knowledge and deliver learning programs quickly, easily and cost-effectively. By enabling subject-matter experts with easy-to-use self-publishing tools and providing an enterprise-class platform to manage, deliver and track vast amounts of content and numbers of learners, organizations can overcome the traditional bottlenecks of learning delivery and better leverage people, money and time. Unlike Web conferencing which requires participants to take scheduled time out of their day to participate in training or meetings, Brainshark’s on-demand format makes learning available at any time and in short segments, such as when learners have a few free minutes in their day, enabling learning without sacrificing productivity.

Training and travel budgets are among the first to be cut in a down economy, but to increase revenues, companies still need to retain good employees and train them to perform at their peak. They also need to adapt to change, align around profitable strategies, and strengthen relationships with customers and partners. With Brainshark, companies can significantly cut costs while doing even more to train, communicate and increase revenue. We look forward to continuing to help organizations find innovative ways to reduce time and expenses and prosper in difficult times.

Examples of forthcoming webinars (from a Non-Profit):

Many Faces of GIS: AAPG Web Symposium Series

Stimulus Bill (Will the Stimulus Change Life as We Know It for Energy, Education?)
AAPG Web Symposium Series

Good Deeds Society

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