Reflections on Layoffs in Online Education


Two years ago, when I was on Zhihu, I had a casual conversation with the leader (frontend manager) while taking a walk in the 768 Creative Park. We talked about online education, not as a formal discussion, but just chatting during the walk. During that time, he asked me about my future plans. I said I wanted to work in the travel industry, specifically in the homestay industry.

My point was that this industry was rapidly growing, and it was indeed expanding at a rate of 100-200% annually. Additionally, with the improvement of living standards, people's desire to travel was also increasing. Moreover, this type of online and offline combination model would not be completely affected by policy issues or app removal, making it more resilient to risks. (One of the main reasons I decided to leave Zhihu was because it was purely an online platform with too many uncertainties and no suitable business model, so I wanted to try a different industry.)

The leader's point of view was why not try online education, which was (at that time) very popular. Education is fundamental, and the demand for it is always there, and it is enormous.

Education and travel are similar in some ways, as they both represent higher-level spiritual pursuits. Education has a broader coverage, including children, youth, middle-aged individuals, compulsory education, higher education, etc., which are essential investments. Although preschool and supplementary education are not mandatory, the demand for them is also significant. Families are willing to invest resources in providing their children with a good education, and middle-aged individuals also have a desire for upward mobility or choose to pursue further education when facing unemployment. On the other hand, travel becomes a discretionary demand when the overall economy is not doing well. If you go bankrupt, would you still choose to travel? However, you might choose to learn and improve yourself to enhance your competitiveness. Therefore, online education (including vocational education) has a wider audience.

We both had our own perspectives, but I mostly agreed with his point of view.

The interesting thing about this conversation is that not long after, I left Zhihu and joined a domestic unicorn company in the homestay industry. However, the travel industry was severely affected by the epidemic the following year and suffered a major setback. It was then that I remembered this experience and decided to plan to join the online education industry. Subsequently, the online education company I joined recently underwent mass layoffs due to policy regulation and other reasons.

This was truly an interesting conversation and experience.

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