It began with two IT professionals building an information portal to keep other IT professionals abreast of the latest certifications available. Now it has the potential to be a multimillion-dollar business.
SelfCert's unlikely transition into a reseller channel for US-based e-learning company SmartForce was started by Oien Joyce and Patrick Aylmer literally out of their homes. At the time, the intention was to source online training courses for individuals looking to skill up in particular certifications.
Three years on and the company has signed a multimillion-dollar partnering deal with SmartForce, in which it offers over 4000 certified IT training courses over the Web to individuals and small-to-medium businesses across Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
SelfCert resells SmartForce's range of accredited certifications for the likes of Cisco, Novell, Microsoft, Citrix and Oracle. It has built up a call centre of 15 full time staff who make and receive calls to prospective clients. It has also partnered with Sun Microsystems to offer the vendor's full range of certifications.
"It's interesting that people are saying the industry is struggling because we're actually going the other way - we're booming," said SelfCert co-founder and director Aylmer. "As the industry gets tougher, people are willing to invest in training for job security."
SelfCert expects to break even on its "substantial" investment in setting up the business by the middle of next year. "We actually expect by the second quarter next year that SelfCert will be cash-flow positive," Aylmer said.
SmartForce's training is predominantly delivered online, but according to Tania Lorefice, SmartForce's channel sales manager, it offers a range of additional features which differentiate it from static browser-based content.
The company offers formal and informal learning through a series of online seminars, additional white papers and information modules as well as follow-the-sun mentoring, where students have access to one of SmartForce's 350 worldwide mentors. The mentoring feature enables individuals to e-mail queries, receive exam-style quizzes and opt for an online chat session if they experience unforeseen difficulties.
The courses range in price according to the certification and the number of additional modules the student wishes to receive, with SelfCert picking up a margin on each deliverable. However, Lorefice claims that due to cost savings inherent in not having to invest in the infrastructure for face-to-face training, SmartForce courses are significantly cheaper than most training centres.
SmartForce is eyeing a number of other channels to distribute its e-learning courses. Lorefice said distributors looking to add value to their resellers by providing additional certified training are such candidates.