Investment banking nostalgia

Internet Time Group celebrates its tenth birthday this month. Artifacts from the early days of eLearning keep appearing as I reflect on the long, strange trip it’s been.


At the turn of the century, investors agreed that for eLearning, the sky was the limit. Or maybe it was more: shoot for the moon. As a reminder to never drink the Kool-Aid without sober reflection, here is the advice investment houses were putting out before the dot-bomb implosion:

Corporate eLearning: Exploring A New Frontier, 3/2000 (WR Hambrecht & Co.) The first report to focus exclusively on corporate eLearning and still one of the best out there. “At the beginning of the new millenium, corporations view learning increasingly as a competitive weapon rather than an annoying cost factor. Corporate executives are beginning to understand that enhancing employee skills is key to creating sustainable competitive advantage.”

The Knowledge Web, 5/2000 (Merrill Lynch) “Technology is the driver of the New Economy, and human capital is its fuel. Finding, attracting, and retaining knowledge workers will be mission-critical.
Companies providing online human capital solutions have the potential to bring together both richness and reach, creating a powerful and revolutionary user experience.” Corporate eLearning: Feeding Hungry Minds.

eLearning, the Engine of the Knowledge Economy, 7/2000 (Morgan Keegan) “The critical and distinguishing strength of countries, organizations, and individuals lies in their intelligence and knowledge in this new economy.” “Virtually no emerging industry has ever experienced dramatic growth without a set of common standards…. eLearning standards will allow eLearning content to be easily accessed and reused in various formats and will enable the inteoperability of learning technologies from difference vendors.”

eLearning: The birth of a vibrant industry, 7/2000 (Goldman Sachs) “Why corporate eLearning? Sustainable competitive advantage: More for less. It’s scalable. Customizable. Consistent. Assessible. Relevant. Convenient. Less costly.”

Riding the Big Waves, A White Paper on the B2B e*Learning Industry, 3/2000 (Thomas Weisel Partners) “Today, corporate learning and the corporate learning organization have ascended to a position of strategic prominence in the context of managing and growing the extended enterprise. Bearing this out, the number of corporate universities has grown four-fold to 1600 in the last ten years. Even more telling is corporate learning’s move to the executive suite. The result — an emerging $11.4 billion opportunity for companies providing B2B e*Learning solutions.”

Helping Investors Ride the eLearning Curve, 11/99. (US Bancorp Piper Jaffray) “We liken the evolution of eLearning to the evolution of ERP software, which is going through a very similar metamorphsis.” Go Web! Go ASP!

The e-Bang Theory, 9/99. (Bank of America Securities.) Howard Block was the first analyst of eLearning to “get it.” This report set the agenda for all that came later. Astute and entertaining.

Intellectual Capital for the Knowledge Economy, Proprietary Higher Education, 1/2000, Sun Trust

E-Knowledge, New Ways to Build the New Economy, 8/99, Wit Capital

Trace Urdan is an astute voice of reason among education industry analysts. When something’s bunk, Trace is not afraid to tell you. His free Signal Hill Education Signals newsletter is the only investment advice in our sector that I trust. Of course, it doesn’t have much company these days.

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