Card image cap

Irish Times ' Skilly enables upskilling at scale

The old adage that practice makes perfect provided former senior financial executive Shane Maguire with the inspiration for Skilly, a cloud-based software training platform set up just over a year ago.

Maguire saw the light while attending a golf clinic. “By the end of seven hours that combined coaching with a pure focus on practice we were chipping and putting like Rory McIlroy!” he says. “That got me thinking about how we learn, practice and then use those skills in the workplace. Organisations spend millions on training budgets yet they are not helping staff to embed their learning by encouraging the practice that’s critical to high-performance outcomes. Many of the learning and training technologies out there only focus on what you learn. Skilly focuses on how you learn and embedding that learning.”

Maguire is no stranger to how the corporate mind thinks when it comes to training. He’s an accountant by profession who worked with KPMG before joining Rabobank’s leasing operations in the IFSC. He then moved into the technology sector and was responsible for establishing Cisco’s vendor finance operations in Europe and emerging markets. Maguire left Cisco in 2014 and worked with a number of Irish technology companies, including medical software platform 3D4Medical, before founding Skilly in 2019. The company is based at NovaUCD, the university’s on-campus centre for entrepreneurs.

“Skilly enables employees to learn and then to practise and record their skills while giving organisations improved accountability and a means of measuring their return on training investment,” says Maguire. “Companies can rapidly upskill and reskill their workforces at scale using our technology and this may well be something organisations have to look at in the post-coronavirus environment.

“Our platform can manage any skill and any learner and our software is easy to deploy and delivers a learning experience that is designed to be fun, fast, effective and affordable,” he adds. “In 2017, US companies spent over $84 billion on training and there are similar-sized markets in Europe and Asia, yet very few monitor employee skill development after training or give them the opportunity to practice, so the opportunity for Skilly is huge.”

Companies upload their training modules on to the Skilly platform (or Skilly can create bespoke modules if required) and employees are automatically reminded to practise a particular skill or exercise a number of times a day or week. Their activity is logged and the person in charge of training programmes can see at a glance who is practising and what they’re practising in real time.

The platform is aimed at large enterprises and can be applied across multiple sectors from hospitality and construction to healthcare, services and education. It can support a variety of hard, soft and technical training objectives. Skilly charges for its service based on the number of active employees using its system. 

Development budget

Investment in the business to date is heading towards €100,000 with feasibility and priming grant support provided by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local enterprise office. Maguire has previous experience of working in a tech start-up and has used it to keep a tight rein on his development budget. “I know when to spend money and when not to, so not a penny has been wasted,” he says.

Skilly is still a very young start-up but it was on the brink of being market-ready when the Covid-19 virus struck. Maguire had already met several potential customers who had expressed an interest in buying the technology and he had also been talking to possible channel partners and investors. Covid-19 may have disrupted the company’s timeline, but Maguire is using the delay productively to fine-tune the platform and develop new training products.