Investment Memos

Investing in Airblack

Building India's largest creator learning platform

28th June 2021

Reading Time:

3 mins

Career aspirations are probably the best indicator of zeitgeist. Until about a decade ago, young people dreamt of becoming astronauts and pilots. These top career choices were (literal) moonshots, and remained just dreams for most. These preferences have changed drastically in the last decade. Young people today want to be creators, influencers, YouTubers, culinary artists, bloggers and entrepreneurs!

What happened in just a decade? The ubiquity of the Internet, of course. But, the the internet also makes these dreams achievable.

The future of work is going to look very different for millennials and Gen-Z. There is a perfect storm of new aspirations, decline of old career choices, and new opportunities - all accessible and achievable through the Internet. In the next decade, over 100 million people will make a livelihood off the internet in India. Today, it is possible to start a salon, a nutrition clinic, a content studio, or a restaurant right from one’s home - all one needs is passion, skills, and the right knowledge. However, where does an aspiring creator build his or her skills and knowledge today?

Airblack is building a learning platform for these internet-first micro entrepreneurs – helping people convert their passions to sustainable livelihood

Beauty and Makeup entrepreneurs on Airblack

The company started with “Beauty and Make-up” as its flagship category. There is a growing demand for make-up artists and beauticians and a large group of passionate aspirants. Airblack is the conduit to match them!

The depth of demand and supply in this category became apparent to us when we started exploring deeper. It is also one of the largest and fastest growing categories in YouTube and Google searches. This sector currently employs more people than the IT industry and is continuing to grow exponentially - yet, quality beauty education remains inaccessible and unaffordable.

The magic of building a learning platform is derived from its impact and outcomes. At Elevation, we believe that the ability to drive long-term outcomes is the key to success for any ed-tech. We have been extremely impressed with the Airblack team’s obsession with outcomes and learner NPS. The best example is Airblack’s flagship “Do it Together” classes - this customer-first innovation, along with a peer community and best-in-class experts is responsible for Airblack’s success. So far, the company has trained over 25,000+ make-up artists and beauty entrepreneurs. The magic, here, is in their completion rates (85%+), average class rating (4.9/5) and most importantly, the individual impact stories.

Airblack has perfected the learning playbook in its flagship category. We strongly resonate with Airblack's vision to replicate and contextualize this learning platform across numerous new categories and geographies.

Airblack did not originally start out as an ed-tech platform. In mid-2019, we had invested in them in a different avatar—as a community-driven, Internet-first travel commerce company, targeting the Indian DIY traveller. The COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a complete standstill. Airblack, however, had two strong assets - a stellar core team and an earned secret!

Earned secret, a term popularized by Ben Horowitz, is the magic ingredient we keep going back to when we meet early-stage teams. It is best described as having done something in the past to solve a hard problem; and in the process having learned something about the world that not a lot of other people know. Earned secrets are special in a team, especially when building category defining companies.

Having worked closely with (aspiring and successful) travel entrepreneurs for over a year, the Airblack team understood this TG like no other in India - their challenges, aspirations, outcomes etc. We have been big believers in unique insights and earned secrets and it shows today—Airblack’s revenue now stands at 25x of the pre-COVID level.

A high-impact mission, a battle-tested winning team and a product that actually works—these factors make for a winning combination. We are thrilled to continue our partnership and welcome some very relevant partners on the cap table.

Team Airblack
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