Hyrise Academy, co-founded by Dominic Blank, provides on-the-job training to prospective sales professionals and helps organizations fill critical sales roles without dipping into a shrinking talent pool.
As far back as the 19th century, we've seen the reputation of the “salesperson” evolve into the version of sales game we know today. The old days of spin selling and face-to-face interactions are (mostly) over, replaced with automation tools, CRMs, and LinkedIn Premium subscriptions.
Sales is nuanced. It's ever-evolving. And it's certainly not for the faint of heart, which is why sales teams of all sizes and scales tend to experience significant churn, often having a hard time finding viable talent to fill open roles.
It was this shared frustration of hiring from a limited sales talent pool that brought Hyrise founders Alvaro Rojas, Dominic Blank, and Michael Land together, using the coding bootcamp business model as inspiration for creating the first bootcamp for aspiring sales professionals:
“My last company [before Hyrise] was a SaaS tech company, and we were always struggling to find salespeople, especially when we were scaling,” Dominic recalls. “You know, it seemed to never work out that we had the people we needed when we needed them. The market seemed to be empty. Michael knew about my passion for sales and coaching, so he brought me together with Alvaro, who had experience getting people into tech jobs through a coding bootcamp, and I had the idea of doing something like that for sales.”
That's when everything clicked for the three founders. The coding bootcamp model has been validated for years in training new generations of technical coding professionals — why couldn't the same thing work for sales? “Tech sales has become a science, right? Something that you can learn. And whatever you can learn, you can teach. So the idea for Hyrise Academy was born — to have an online academy that helps people get into tech sales roles.”
That was two years ago. Today, Hyrise Academy partners with companies across the globe to train and place viable candidates in open roles. Massive organizations like Hubspot and Asana have benefitted from not just the candidates Hyrise produces, but their corporate retraining programs for current employees, too.
In such a short amount of time, Dominic and his co-founders have learned many lessons about program design, marketing, and managing a virtual member-backed community. Their insights are invaluable to founders and operators of bootcamps, academies, and micro-schools.
Insights from Hyrise Academy co-founder Dominic Blank on designing, marketing, scaling a top virtual academy
Be bold and turn traditional models on their heads
“I think how we started initially was the traditional bootcamp model, which is what most tech sales bootcamp camps do out there,” says Dominic. “You have a B2C side, which is the candidates, or the members who pay you to equip them with tools and knowledge and skills. So you monetize the candidates.”
“Then, upon program completion, you help them get placed in the industry, so you also monetize B2B. That's how our initial model worked, which is what most bootcamps do. However, what became evident very soon is that, especially in a market like Germany, where education is free, where people are usually very hesitant to enter a career that's completely new like tech sales, what does it even mean? Taking time out of their busy lives to go through bootcamp to then pay for a career they're not even sure about?”
This realization caused Dominic, Alvaro, and Michael to reframe the traditional bootcamp model in a way that made more sense for their audience and their end goal. “We knew we had to change something, especially since our mission is to enable people to have a career they love through access to skills, and we didn't really provide access, because paying for that access stood in the way,” Dominic says. “So something had to change. We did a complete change. Not what we do, but how we do it.”
That change was pretty massive: They made the B2C side of their program entirely free. Instead, they're fully monetized on the B2B side by first placing candidates at a company that's part of their hiring network. Then, they put candidates through a six to eight week training where they give them the skills they need to succeed during the first two or three months of onboarding. This way, organizations have people in roles they need to fill, and Hyrise can leverage real-world, on-the-job applications for their training.
To change so drastically early on is a risk, but for the Hyrise team, it paid off: customer acquisition costs went down drastically, applications were both up in numbers and in terms of quality, and the barrier to entry was non-existent, which helped in terms of marketing:
“All you have to do is you apply and we help you find out if tech a sales job is for you or not by giving you access to a bunch of resources, from helping you take a course to simulating real sales activities to offering feedback. We have a big pool of companies working with us and now, we can provide them with the amount of talent they really need to substantiate their candidate pipeline for the positions they have.”
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Create intimate subgroups for more impactful learning
Community is a big pillar of Hyrise Academy's pedagogy. That starts from the moment you apply to well after you complete your training and settle into your new sales career.
Dominic says, “Let's walk through a scenario. Let's say we have someone named Sally. Sally joins Hyrise and is getting placed in a high-growth tech company in Berlin or anywhere in Germany or Europe and starts going through training in parallel to her new job there. That's where the community starts, right?”
The community starts at Hyrise, where “Sally” has access to a community of other trainees in their respective roles, but she's also immediately included in the community her organization has in place.
“Those small groups are accompanied by an experienced sales trainer and one of our Student Success Trainers, who are like tutors. They help with learning success during the program, making sure any roadblocks that might occur are being removed in the knowledge transfer. And so of course, during that time, since it's a bootcamp, it's intense; it's heavy learning, so you have to leave your comfort zone. You do cold calling and other stuff that you're doing for the first time with real people, which can be scary!”
Community is so critical to these learning experiences, even more so with the Hyrise model of learning on the job. So within your own learning community at Hyrise — including peers and your Student Success Trainer — you're developing a more intimate relationship, that then translates to the community you're forming with colleagues within your new organization.
“I think the bond is strongest between the people that you are going through the program with, but that's also where you learn the most: the peer to peer feedback. You get to listen in on their call to see how they approach email or how they go about lead discovery with their prospects. That's where a lot of the learning comes from during the program. Afterwards, you can connect on a peer-to-peer basis.”
In addition to fostering interpersonal relationships between their members tech industry together, Hyrise hosts monthly masterclasses, who are invited to speak about topics and passions exclusively for their existing alumni community.
“I think we've just started to scratch the surface. We've just started building the community. Part of the roadmap is to heavily invest into it, but that's just the beginning of where we stand today.”
Remember: Hyrise Academy is just barely two years old, and Dominic's already looking to 2030 and beyond. The sky's the limit, but they're exploring additional training programs, courses, and subscription models for accessing learning content in an effort to promote lifelong learning throughout your career's lifespan.
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Use marketing to reframe common misconceptions
Marketing for a bootcamp model as unique as Hyrise comes with a unique set of opportunities.
“We made sure that we really, really, really doubled down on content from day one. If we want to enable 10,000 people to access a new, tech sales career — which is what our goal is — by 2030, we really have to change the perception of sales,” says Dominic. “People mistake it for something else entirely, or maybe something that was in the 1970s and ‘80s, the sleazy car salesman, insurance brokers, Wolf of Wall Street — that's what people are associating it with. You have to change their perception.”
Through pointed blog content, frequent social promotion, and alumni success stories, Hyrise is doing their part to shift the outdated perception of sales professionals to what they really are today: tech-minded, solution-oriented consultants. “Part of the reason why the talent pool is empty is because people don't come out of university having sales as a career aspiration. So we went heavy on blogging and optimizing our blogs for SEO. At the beginning, we said, ‘Hey, let's see which markets work best first.' We now, actually, get more inbound leads in English than in German,” says Dominic.
The Hyrise team used a number of approaches in addition to content, including PR:
“We needed to build trust for people to pay for the program. Education is something that's highly personal. So at the beginning, that was our biggest challenge: B2C. Convincing people to go through a bootcamp was difficult, but it's a compounding effect. You start slow, people start talking, you populate success stories afterwards, and then you'll see the numbers rising. But with the pricing model change [to free], it made it much easier. Now we have over 100 success stories. We get good ratings on Course Report. We have better brand recognition now in Germany, especially. Marketing, especially for B2C, is no longer a challenge because the success is proven.”
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Develop a relationship with members to capitalize on brand equity
“Everybody talks about community, but few companies have really effectively built communities that have reliable, strong ties. Most have a loose association with people that have once consumed a product or service. But what I really mean is a sense of belonging. That's community.”
There is always some hesitancy with capitalizing on tight-knit communities, but Dominic and the Hyrise team have learned you won't survive without doing so. “If you can establish that emotional tie, you need to capitalize on it. That's the easiest way for you to then have a positive association effect for new products or new services that you're launching. In startup life, you're short of time, money and resources in general, and you have to prioritize what you focus recruiting and training program and on. But it's important to not lose sight by continuing to pay attention to the community.”
Investing in that community from day one will ensure scalability for your offerings as well as for membership within your community. To build a referral engine, successfully introduce new products, and increase revenue, you have to invest in your community.
Don't skip the "Prepare to scale" phase
For startups, even top tech companies, it's natural to see a spark of success and want to light a bonfire. But Dominic acknowledges the Hyrise team is settling into the “prepare to scale phase” before they enter full-blown growth mode.
“In most startups, you play MacGyver your first half-year or year, and then you immediately go to scale, but then you have legacy problems, because you don't figure out how you want to scale and what's necessary to scale,” Dominic says.
“So this year, we want to build our programs and our value creation processes in a way that is scalable. Then next year, I think we want to scale, and scaling might mean geographically expanding to other regions or other big geographies outside of Germany. It may also mean launching new products, which may help SDRs become AEs, which may help current AEs upskill to get promotions. So for the multiple ideas that we have, we're going to run experiments around what makes the most sense.”
That's the big takeaway from the prepare to scale phase: Find out what moves the dial to and what's needed to make your operations actually scalable, without aimlessly throwing resources and time and money at them.
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“What I love is that the whole educational system or systems, globally, are in flux. What we've seen now is that blended learning approaches are on the rise,” Dominic explains.
“Succeeding in my career by being educated and trained once for the rest of my career change my life is passé. It's no longer enough. Every three years, the entire knowledge on the Internet renews itself. We need to retrain and reskill multiple times a year because the trends are moving so fast, you have to be learning continuously.”
Dominic continues: “Maybe we're even moving away from degrees and we're going to challenge-based learning, right? Every time I run into a roadblock, I consume knowledge. I upskill. Then, I run until I hit the next roadblock. So I think micro-learning experiences like ours are here to stay. By the same way, I think universities are here to stay. The mission that traditional education fulfills is also one of personality building. For some people, maybe a three to four year college program is better for them to figure out who they are. There's more to them than just knowledge transfer. Maturing as a human being and using the time to figure out where I fit in life has its justification, too. But we'll definitely have to continuously learn multiple times a year, not just once.”
As Hyrise Academy continues to march towards upskilling 10,000 prospective and sales training professionals by 2030, founders of virtual academies, bootcamps, and micro-schools continue to move the future of education forward together. If we've learned anything from our conversation with Dominic, it's that newer models of education don't have to replace the traditional models; in some ways, they can learn from one another, and finding the solutions to support niche communities remains the goal for all forms of education.
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