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20 Best Small Companies to Watch 2021

Transforming Businesses through Education: InStride

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“InStride is a public benefit company whose mission is to develop the workforce of the future by helping large organizations provide career-boosting, life-changing opportunities to their employees, while strengthening their competitive advantage.”

The corporate world in the U.S. spends $180 billion approx. each year to educate its employers through tuition assistance and corporate-sponsored training programs. But most CEOs across the industries feel that these programs do not produce the desired results. InStride was established to address this problem.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Instride is truly pioneering a new way to empower workforce education. The company provides employers all over the U.S. with life-changing strategic enterprise education programs. These programs are provided to the employees in partnership with the highest-quality global academic institutions.

InStride is a public benefit company whose mission is to develop the workforce of the future by helping large organizations provide career-boosting, life-changing opportunities to their employees while strengthening their competitive advantage. The company believes that the most enduring way for companies to do this is by starting with people.

Strategic Enterprise EducationTM 

Education can improve the earning potential of a person hugely. It can be a key factor in driving better retention, performance, customer satisfaction, innovation, and other business objectives. Businesses across the U.S. avail Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP) to educate their employees, but only 2% of employees actually use them. Despite the availability of this avenue, businesses are not really effective in delivering any business outcome.

But Instride's Strategic Enterprise EducationTM brings a new approach to the table that makes it possible to go beyond the traditional learning and equip the employees with the skills and education they really need to further their careers and improve a company's bottom line.

"We founded InStride to scale programs that make an impact. Strategic enterprise education drives a deeper connection between employers and academic institutions. These connections enable corporations to strategically use employee education to drive sustainable business growth. Employees get to take a powerful next step in their careers, through the highest-quality academic institutions, which results in meaningful impact for the employee, the employer, and the greater community," said Vivek Sharma, CEO, InStride.

Strategic enterprise education is a customized approach to identify a company's specific strategic challenges, assess skills gaps across the organization, and design a comprehensive program that equips employees with relevant education opportunities through partnership with top-quality institutions that are committed to serving working adult learners. Most importantly, it equips organizations with a proven strategy to support employees every step of the way — from discovery to enrollment and all the way to graduation.

InStride starts with a workshop to bring together key leaders across the business to align on overall business objectives and explore the organization's current workforce, available skills sets, and needs for upskilling to see what the program should focus on. Then, building from a foundation of more than 300 online degree and certificate programs from InStride's curated network of top-tier research universities and education partners around the world, the company helps an organization identify the programs that will best meet employees' needs and equips them with the skills the organization needs most.

With Strategic Enterprise Education, higher learning is seen as a strategic investment in the company's future, not as another administrative cost center like medical benefits or a 401(k). This point of view creates new expectations for delivering the program and holding it accountable to drive business results.

InStride helps employers like Aramark, Adidas, Banfield Pet Hospital, Carvana, Labcorp, and Magna to create a more adaptable, innovative workforce by providing their employees with access to career-boosting degrees and credentials from leading academic institutions. The company has agreements with a curated network of universities, including Arizona State University (ASU), City University of New York (CUNY), the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Memphis.

The Leader

Vivek Sharma, CEO and Co-founder

Vivek Sharma has extensive experience building and growing profitable businesses through the application of technology and data, having served as CEO & Co-Founder, senior tech executive, Fortune 500 board member, data science professor, author and early-stage investor.

Vivek founded InStride after five years at The Walt Disney Company, where he was the Senior Vice President, Digital Guest Experience & eCommerce, for theme parks, resorts, cruises, restaurants and retail businesses globally. Prior to Disney, he spent four years with Yahoo in Sunnyvale as General Manager for Yahoo Mail & Messenger, and Vice President of Yahoo Search products. Earlier in his career, Vivek was an Associate Partner with the technology practice of McKinsey & Company in their Chicago and Singapore offices for eight years.

As an Independent Board Director for Jetblue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU), Vivek serves as chairman of the Technology committee and member of the Audit committee. He also is a board member of EdPlus at Arizona State University and an adjunct professor of data science at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He is a member of G100’s Chief Executive group and the World 50 executive network.

“With Strategic Enterprise Education, higher learning is seen as a strategic investment in the company’s future, not as another administrative cost center like medical benefits or a 401(k).”