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CAVU Founder Chris Sims on Professional Development Through Scrum

Introduction

Professional development training is mutually beneficial for both employees and employers. Employees build valuable skills, and companies benefit from a stronger workforce and a better culture. Unfortunately, not all learning programs can capture engagement, and ineffective training doesn’t benefit anyone.

For a more involved and social learning experience, CAVU’s platform utilizes Scrum, a development methodology that emphasizes communication, accountability, and ongoing advancement. Professional learners will have access to content outside of classes, and they can stay connected with coaches and peers. We reached out to CAVU founder and CEO Chris Sims to learn how the company plans to encourage underrepresented communities and what inspired the company’s name.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Zee Zhong

In your own words, how would you describe CAVU?

Chris Sims

CAVU is a social learning platform that connects people that want to teach with people that want to learn. We change lives and make a more diverse world through affordable training coupled with scholarships.

In particular, we help people who lack access to traditional educational or professional development opportunities gain the skills they need through Scrum training to get in-demand, high-paying roles that we consider to be recession-proof. We also partner with companies to provide the same set of skills to their existing employees.

Because the nature of Scrum is to help companies and employees work smarter and leaner, it’s an even more desirable skill set when the economy is struggling. Our graduates are equipped to succeed, to move into new roles, and to help their organization become more efficient and successful.

Zee Zhong

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Chris Sims

After the success of my first company, Sigao Studios, I had a strong interest in creating a new organization that would not only offer something new in the professional development landscape but could serve as a catalyst for bringing more diversity and inclusion to an industry that desperately needs it. Because of my background both with Scrum Inc. and as one of 18 Registered Scrum Fellows in the world, I knew that teaching Scrum could be a great vehicle to achieve both of these goals.

Zee Zhong

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Chris Sims

Our core team consists of myself, Chief Operations Officer Larry Tribble, Chief Growth Officer Ray Robinson, and Chief Content Officer Rebecca Dobrinski. I’m fortunate to have met a lot of innovative, passionate Scrum professionals along my journey, and Larry, Ray, and Rebecca are just three examples that have become colleagues and friends. We currently have a five-member content team that develops our courses, videos, blog posts, and podcasts as well as a number of contractors who support our communications efforts. 

We also partner with organizations like Innovate Birmingham in our hometown to identify up-and-coming talent, particularly from backgrounds that are not well represented in the tech industry — like people of color, members of the LGBTIQ+ community, and women. As we continue to grow, we also hope to continue to diversify our own organization and truly practice what we preach, understanding that a diverse team is a strong team.

Zee Zhong

How is CAVU transforming the professional development industry?

Chris Sims

For a long time, professional development has been all about meeting in a stuffy hotel conference room, shaking a few hands, and staring at a PowerPoint while somebody talks at you until it’s time to go back to your organization and tell them what you learned — if anything. Not only does CAVU offer an opportunity for digital learning, but we are also built on community. 

As a cohort-based learning model, CAVU offers learners a chance not only to learn from an expert but to learn from each other, to network, and to share opportunities, even beyond their time in the virtual classroom.

CAVU is also teaching Scrum virtually. Scrum is a framework for taking complex projects and breaking them down into simpler steps so that they are more manageable for teams. While it may sound intuitive, leading a Scrum team is actually an incredibly valuable and in-demand skill. Our social learning platform has made that skill set more widely accessible than ever at a time when there are thousands of open jobs with “Scrum” in the title across the US.

Zee Zhong

What is your business model and how do you generate revenue?

Chris Sims

The most important aspect of our business model is that we chose to incorporate as a benefit corporation, which means we have a responsibility both to make money and to provide a measurable benefit to the public. This allows us to focus a portion of our work more specifically on helping groups that are underrepresented in tech gain access to more opportunities. We provide the training they need to get a foot in the door.

This opens the door for different types of funding, like our recent partnership with the Alabama Power Foundation to launch a $100,000 scholarship program for our courses. Just hours after opening the process, we had received dozens of applications, demonstrating that it is a much-needed service for our community. We hope to offer more opportunities like this in the future.

We also have a keen interest in democratizing funding through Regulation Crowdfunding, which is why we launched our Republic campaign. By providing opportunities to invest at a relatively low dollar amount, we invite a much more diverse group of people to be part of what CAVU is doing.

Finally, we recognize that for long-term sustainability, a dual-purpose program that serves both individuals and larger organizations that are seeking Scrum training is key. We currently work with one corporate partner and are actively seeking to expand in that area as well.

Zee Zhong

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Chris Sims

There are a number of places to learn about Scrum and even other popular online learning platforms where you can take quick courses. But CAVU is different for a couple of reasons.

First, because of our cohort-based model, the learning doesn’t stop when the instructor stops talking. Our students learn from each other and also gain valuable networking relationships that can last far beyond just one course. 

Our training also goes far more in depth than many others offered online. We don’t just prepare learners to pass a test. We prepare them to succeed at a new role. I teach a number of our classes, and as I mentioned before, I’m one of 18 Registered Scrum Fellows on the planet. Instructor qualifications don’t get much better than that.

Zee Zhong

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Chris Sims

Our next phase is all about growing exponentially. We believe in our product, and we want the world to know about it. So for us, scaling our business looks like getting the word out to more and more people. This means investing in the right tools and people to create a strategy to do just that.

Zee Zhong

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Chris Sims

We are already successful. Our alumni have gone on to earn Scrum credentials and move into new roles where they are more fulfilled and earn more. 

Beyond that, an investment in CAVU is not just an investment in a more diverse and equitable tech industry. It’s an investment in a tech industry that is stronger because of the wider range of experience and ideas and smarter-working because of the influx of Scrum-trained employees.

Zee Zhong

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Chris Sims

Our brand name, CAVU, is a term I learned when I was pursuing my pilot’s license a few years ago. It means “ceiling and visibility unlimited” — basically going even beyond saying “the sky is the limit” to saying the only limits to what we achieve are actually the barriers we place on ourselves. In five to 10 years, I expect to be doing things I haven’t imagined yet.

We look forward to seeing where Chris and his team take the company. CAVU is currently raising on Republic.

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