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David Anderson

Saga Wisdom provides enterprise-level online continuing education for the energy sector. Our mission is to improve the ROI of on-the-job training with mission-critical content that is deployed using cutting-edge information technology, with a strong focus on achieving customers’ stated business objectives. We envision a world where on-the-job training integrates seamlessly and profitably within any organization’s defined work processes with minimal downtime.

Tell us about yourself?

I have worked in the oil and gas industry for 25 years, primarily as a reservoir engineering consultant. I made a name for myself as a specialist in the analysis of production data and have spent years lecturing and teaching training courses all over the world on that subject. I was also a managing partner of a successful engineering software business that was acquired by a larger company in 2013. So, I would say two things – my passion for teaching and my entrepreneurial spirit – have led me toward my current venture with Saga Wisdom.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

That’s an easy one! My co-founders and I started this business with a safety net under us. We all had full-time jobs and slowly built up our idea for Saga Wisdom as a side hustle. If I could go back in time, I would have encouraged us to quit the nine-to-five jobs and commit full-throttle to this idea much sooner.

What problem does your business solve?

There is a massive technical skills gap in the energy sector. 40 per cent of this shortage of skills is simply due to inadequate education and training. This costs the sector billions in lost value every year. I really wanted to understand why our industry was failing to deliver the skills and education that its workers needed to be successful. To be fair, this is a very complex problem, and there isn’t a silver bullet. However, through our early market research, we discovered that a HUGE contributor is simply the high cost and inefficiency of existing on-the-job training solutions. The expertise and knowledge are out there, but the industry has not found a way to deploy it in an efficient and cost-effective way such that technical workers can realize a true return on investment of their time and resources in exchange for knowledge and upskilling. There was kind of an “aha” moment when I knew we had stumbled onto something significant. My co-founders and I realized that this was the right time to introduce an internet-based learning platform uniquely designed for the needs of the energy sector, providing cost-effective access to premium continuing education and expert support.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I would say that my passion for teaching and learning is the primary inspiration for being involved in this business. I find myself thinking a lot about the value of learning. It’s not an easy thing to put a tangible price on, especially at the enterprise scale. One of the things that can make the learning on the job more economically viable for any employee is to simply make the process more efficient. In that spirit, the specific problem we are trying to solve is – Can we design an on-the-job training program that provides measurable value in terms of skills and decision-making ability to be gained by participants, that is also cost-effective and fits unobtrusively into the company’s existing work processes?

What is your magic sauce?

Our magic sauce is our willingness to be innovative and do things completely differently than they’ve been done before. Traditionally, on-the-job training is a transaction. You tell me you need a specific course for 20 participants. I source an instructor, schedule a class, and the transaction is complete. I don’t like this model because I want our relationship with our customers to be long-term, not transactional. Saga Wisdom is an annual subscription business that depends on renewals. Our goal is to continually improve the ROI of our customers’ training budget year-over-year. We do this by offering our full (and ever-expanding) training catalogue at a fixed price per user (which is similar to what a student would pay for a single technical classroom course on the open market). We also have an innovative way to incentivize our content providers to maintain up-to-date, quality and relevant content on our platform through usage-driven revenue sharing. Last but not least, we have some great learning tech built into the platform, including expertly transcribed and searchable videos, gamification, dashboards, and advanced data analytics. The major competitors in the energy continuing education space have undoubtedly invested millions into R&D for on-demand and e-learning, but none have yet been able to build a profitable business out of it. Saga Wisdom has doubled its annual revenues every year since 2019 using this model, and so far, we are showing no signs of slowing down!

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

There are 270,000 technical professionals working globally in the energy sector. Saga Wisdom’s current subscribership is a very small fraction of that. My vision is very simple – I believe the majority of these technical workers (and their employers) would get value from our community, and so I envision a scenario where Saga Wisdom is the industry’s leading on-demand training and upskilling center in energy. In this scenario, the vast majority of training and upskilling would take place online and on demand. This would make room for in-person and classroom training to become much more impactful as it would be limited to high-value engagements where alignment of skills and interests and subject matter has been pre-vetted. I believe the net effect will be improved real returns in the energy business to the tune of billions.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

For me, the biggest challenge is saying no. We are still fairly early in the startup timeline, and there are constant opportunities and distractions to take our focus off the core strategy of the business. It is very difficult to shut the door on a good opportunity or idea, even if it distracts us from keeping an eye on the prize. This is something that myself and my three co-founders have all dealt with several times in the past. One specific example was that someone wanted a “white-label” version of our platform to use internally as a learning management system. Such a deal could have been quite lucrative but did not serve our core purpose and vision.

How can people get involved?

If you are an employer, executive, or manager in the energy sector and are looking to get better ROI for your continuing education budget, we would love to hear from you!

If you are a technical professional in the energy sector, working as a petroleum engineer, geoscientist, geophysicist or technologist and are looking to give your career a boost as well as join a great community of like-minded learners, we would love to hear from you!

If you are a student enrolled in any post-secondary technical program related to the energy sector, such as engineering, geoscience, geophysics or data science and are interested in learning about what it takes to have a career in the energy sector, we would love to hear from you!

Please visit our website and fill out the form to learn more.