The Garden – a people’s university – launches new learning platform for the people and ideas shaping tomorrow’s world

In this post: The Garden, Hannah Seal

QUICK TAKE

  • Like a Netflix for university, The Garden has raised £3 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures, plus prominent UK and US angel investors
  • The Garden brings together world-leading experts and academics to share their knowledge & insights with members of the general public through live and on-demand talks
  • Their ‘fellows’ come from over 100 institutions worldwide including Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and include neuroscientist Professor Gina Rippon, art historian Dr. James Fox and psychologist Professor Ann Phoenix
  • The company was founded by serial entrepreneur Sophie Adelman, who also co-founded Multiverse, and Simon Lambert, experienced Chief Technology Officer and startup operator

INDEX PERSPECTIVE

By Hannah Seal, Partner

Online learning is exploding, but the options available today tend to either be structured education and skill-building, or passive ‘edutainment’. There’s an emerging market of people who wish to learn for personal enrichment - ‘learning for enjoyment’. The pandemic opened up people’s minds to how important learning is to our confidence and mental health, and accelerated the trend of using technology to access learning across all generations.

The volume of content already available online is enormous, but it’s highly fragmented; discovery is hard and quality is variable. That is why I’m so excited about The Garden; a curated platform that enables people to discover engaging content from experts, share their own perspectives, and form a community with other lifelong learners.

We know from other companies in our portfolio that the ‘creator economy’ is booming. Academics and experts are arguably some of the world's most critical and valuable creators, yet to date, there has been little in the way of tools for this group to create, monetise and distribute their content.

By creating learning opportunities for everyone, anywhere, and at any time, The Garden is also playing an important role in helping to level up people, businesses and communities by democratising and de-institutionalising learning. No longer do you need to be based in a cosmopolitan city to go to a talk with a world-renowned expert in their field.

THE DETAILS

Have you ever thought that if you could have your time at university again, you’d do it differently? That you would spend more time learning from some of the world’s greatest minds, and less time down at the pub?

The Garden, an innovative learning platform and community for the curious, has launched to bring people together for lifelong learning. Like a Netflix for University, The Garden brings academics out of their institutions and into members’ homes with beautiful livestream and interactive talks every week, which also become available on-demand for members to watch at their leisure.

The Garden’s central offering consists of cinematic but intimate live-streamed talks by world-leading experts (known as ‘Fellows’) across the sciences and humanities. They curate a range of arresting topics: from the neuroscientist Professor Gina Rippon on gender and the brain; to plant scientist Professor Katie Field on the secret world of fungi; to oceanographer Professor Erik Cordes on deep ocean exploration; and psychologist Professor Ann Phoenix on the construction of social identity. They also bring relevant experts into The Garden to give deep insight into topical issues like the history of the Russia-Ukraine war & Nuclear Disarmament right at the moment when people need to understand these topics.

Following a beta launch in January of this year, over 11,000 early members have now signed up. Two to three new live talks are streamed each week, with an average of more than 200 people attending each talk live, and many more accessing over 100 on-demand talks. Today’s full launch comes as the company announces £3 million in funding from top investors, including venture capital firms Index Ventures and Village Global, as well as a roster of impressive angels.​

‘So many people confuse the idea of learning with formal education and, sadly, the image of the classroom can have negative associations for plenty of us,’ says co-founder & CEO, Sophie Adelman. ‘But the need to know is in all of us - we were all once the ‘why child’ - and it's something we return to throughout our lives, whether that’s for skills, joy or because of that burning need to simply have to know.
Adelman continues: ‘While there’s been an explosion of online learning in the last decade, we believe that the overfocus on achievement-oriented learning misses a lot of people’s needs. The Garden opens up a world of learning to people who want to feed their curiosity by exploring a fascinating range of topics in an enjoyable, accessible way with live engagement. There are no papers to be written or exams to be sat in The Garden; simply put, we are a growing, global community for the curious.’

To hear more from Sophie about why she set up The Garden, tune in to our Hands On podcast below.

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Published — July 13, 2022