Sramana Mitra: Where are you now revenue-wise? How far along are you?
Adrian Ridner: As a privately-held company, we don’t share specific financials, but we’re definitely in the tens of million range.
Sramana Mitra: What trends do you see out there right now that you think are interesting trends that are worth discussing in this conversation?
Adrian Ridner: There are a few that tie in that I think are really important. One is the shift to lifelong learning. The idea that information is at the tip of your fingers and with smartphones’ unlimited access to anything you want, the world is evolving quickly. Anything you learn becomes obsolete very quickly. It’s no longer the way you need to interact with the world around you. In the knowledge economy, the ability to learn and learn new things quickly is the most important skill. Platform or anything else that supports the ability to be learning all the time are really starting to take off.
If you think about it, looking at facts is not what education is. It never was. It’s definitely not what it is today. From that perspective, there’s a huge shift that requires us to keep up. Getting access to the information and getting access to places where we can learn on-demand is important. Another trend that we talked about a little earlier is Big Data having an influence on education that it never had before, especially in being able to feed the performance of students at scale. Imagine a classroom where everyone is able to take all their exams and quizzes and the teacher instantly knows how they perform not just everyday but week over week. That level of rapid feedback has never existed. That is a big trend.
The last one is up-skilling workforce. It’s a big topic of conversation, especially in the United States. It’s crucial to economic growth and is something where we’re seeing both private and public government playing a role. I think that everyone is realizing that jobs are changing and the ability of a skilled labor force can’t be taken for granted. There are 30 million Americans who have some partial college credit and haven’t finished a college degree. Especially for front line workers, learning Python isn’t the next thing on their checklist of upward mobility.
It’s really about getting the fundamentals in their education. High school and college degrees are that foundation that you can then build upon to reach upward mobility. I see a huge trend there. We have companies that ask us if we can provide a fully-funded college degree using the platform and partnering with some of these 2,000 universities that accept credit. We’re seeing companies go through and provide that as a benefit because they can provide a degree for thousands of dollars instead of $40,000.
Large companies like Walmart and McDonalds are looking at this problem and realizing that they have a part to play in helping the workforce. On the flip side, we are seeing the government playing to this trend as well. We were selected for a Department of Education experiment called EQUIP. It’s essentially investing in eight new technology providers that can partner with universities in ways to provide competency-based education and personalized learning to low-income students. The lowest-income students in America have been able to use Pell Grants and student loans to pay for new types of learning like Study.com or bootcamps. I’m seeing this trend of providing access to low-income students that seems to be coming from all fronts.