Interview with Degreed Founder and CEO, David Blake

Interview with Degreed Founder and CEO, David Blake

Degreed is a new startup from San Francisco, whose mission is to “Jailbreak the degree” and help lifetime learners with a new form of academic credentialing. Degreed helps you discover the best resources the world is offering and provides you with 

real-time reflection to track and succeed in your learning goals.

The main aim of Degreed is to help people learn what they need to unlock relevant employment and educational opportunities.David Blake, CEO and Cofounder of Degreed,  said he hopes that by “jailbreaking” the college degree and providing learners with high-quality, low-cost & online educational content creates a new world of education and encourages lifelong learning.

Lets go through the full interview covering some more details about Degreed's journey, how the idea evolved and how it is being executed. 

1. What would be an elevator pitch for someone who does not know about your product?

Degreed is the ultimate measure of your education. Degreed helps you track, measure, and share everything you learn--both academic learning like courses and degrees, professional learning like certificates and conferences, and life-long learning like articles, videos, and books. 

2. What is your company's core value proposition? What problem are you solving and for whom?

The majority of all learning goes untracked and uncredentialed. Degreed helps college students, professionals, and lifelong learners get recognition for everything they learn.

3. What is the driving passion, why are you passionate about this product? What is your vision?

It is our mission to "jailbreak the degree". To jailbreak, in this case, means to get something out of an outdated mode of operation. Right now, Degrees are the only form of education that really matters to employers or universities. But we learn all of the time... so we set out to imagine what a credential would look like if it was built from scratch for the needs of today's students and scholars. 

Clayton Christensen has predicted this future saying, "I bet what happens as [higher education] becomes more modular is that [credentials] occurs at the level of the course, not the university; so they can then offer degrees as collection of the best courses taught in the world. A barrier that historically kept people out of university [is] blown away by the modularization and the change in [course-by-course] accreditation.” 

4. What is the stage of the product? Where do you see Degreed in 6 or 12 or 18 months from now? (e.g. product milestones, team size, potential growth/revenue targets).

Degreed's founding team is a proven group of entrepreneurs and educators, having helped to launch two accredited universities, having sold two companies, and a diversity of other entrepreneurial and professional endeavors. The team has five full-time members presently and more joining us in the near future as we continue to scale. 

Degreed launched earlier this year free for users. There has been a lot of demand from companies to make use of Degreed for their hiring and internal learning objectives. We are now working on group and organizational features now.

Our vision for Degreed is that it becomes the world's de facto way to figure out what someone knows, the same way LinkedIn has become the way to figure out what someone's work experience is. 

5. What is the biggest need for your startup? (e.g. funding, development, market access, channels, publicity)

Our next big challenge will be rolling Degreed out for groups. Currently, it is something you build for your personal use but we are looking to make it more social and begin to serve the learning needs of entire organizations. 

6. What are your views about the growth of Education Technology industry?

Education is too important to stay the way it is. While it has been exciting to see the recent advancements with the MOOCs and informal learning platforms, there are still too many people limited by their access to a meaningful education. As long as that is the case, the growth still is not rapid enough. 

7. How did this start?

When I had the original (different) idea for Degreed I thought to myself, who is the best person in the world to help make this happen. David Wiley was the top of the list, one of the world's leading authority on Open Education. So I got on a plane, showed up at his office, unannounced and pitched him the idea. He loved it and said he was in. 

In the days that followed we pushed on the idea and began to make progress and in the process there was a spark around Jailbreaking the Degree. When that epiphany struck, we knew that was the real mission--to enable a meaningful, lifelong model of education, unrestrained by the limitations of a traditional degree. We have been pushing in that direction ever since. 

8. What/Who motivates you? Any thought leader or companies with innovation which you follow for success? Whether in the EdTech space or in general?

Clayton Christensen if one of the great sources of inspiration in pursuing Degreed. We believe his theory of modularization of industries is happening now with education and that it is an exciting turning point in the long history of the industry. 

9. What are the biggest challenges of your edtech startup?

Look, the degree is one of the longest standing traditions we have as a collective society. It is the average person's second most expensive purchase they will ever make and on average, will saddle themselves with $26,500 in debt to pay for it.

Time magazine writes of the degree, "Future generations may look back and shudder at the cruelty of it" and Forbes has called it, "The Tyranny of the Degree."

The pain is both a reflection of the need and opportunity to evolve beyond the current system, but it is also a reflection of the dependency we have on the current system, and moving past it is a tall order. A challenge we have undertaken. 

Those hundreds of years of history and tradition, that dependency we have on the degree--that is our biggest challenge. 

Really, there are few problems larger or of higher consequence than that which we have undertaken.


About the Author
Author: Santosh Bhaskar KWebsite:
Devotee of Dr. Abdul Kalam. Following his path of Creating Creative Education in India. Contributing my works in "India Vision 2020". Former EdTech Blogger/Researcher at ETR India

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