Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
The following is an interview we recently had with Danielius Stasiulis, Co-Founder of BitDegree.
1. What’s the history of BitDegree? How and where did you begin?
DS: BitDegree was born out of one of the world's leading free-of-charge web-hosting service providers – 000webhosts.com. Millions of web enthusiasts flock to this service because they can't afford anything else, they go there to learn and experiment with their first web project. On a trip to India, the team has understood how life-changing this service is for some people and decided to support their education through various free web fundaments courses. The feedback was phenomenal and it became apparent that this is a huge opportunity. The team went into active research and development phase – investigating state-of-the-art in e-learning and related tech, reviewing competition, understanding the value-chain and the economics of the potential solution. And there is was it – a vision how we can change lives of a billion people through affordable, accessible education – BitDegree. Blockchain technology was at the core of the solution and then the ICO market has skyrocketed, giving us a hint how to fund BitDegree.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
Andrius Putna, Co-founder – The Technology Wiz & CEO of BitDegree
11 years in software engineering. Blockchain evangelist. The person behind the success of 000webhost – world’ first and biggest free cloud hosting platform designed for learning, testing and experimenting. His way-ahead-of our-time mindset and passion for technologies led him to become the CEO and one of the founding members of BitDegree where, on the long term, he aims to revolutionize education and shape it to today’s business needs.
Danielius Stasiulis, Co-founder
Business and Growth architect with a solid management consulting background. The founder of Startup Division startup support organization and an Associate Partner at Civitta, a leading management consulting firm in Eastern Europe. Worked with 300+ startups, including at Berkeley Skydeck in Silicon Valley. Founded 4 own startups. Was an official Lithuania’s youth delegate to the UN in 2012 and a member of the Major Group for Children and Youth, where he fought for the education initiatives. Danielius focuses on blockchain-based business models and long-term growth of BitDegree.
Jeff Burton, Major Advisor
Serial Entrepreneur, co-founder of Electronic Arts. Technology executive, investor, and former Executive Director at Skydeck – UC Berkeley’s startup incubator. Jeff has over 37 years of experience managing, investing, and advising growing enterprises. Jeff was part of EA’s founding team, where he led EA’s international expansion and worldwide marketing. Prior to EA, Jeff was an International Marketing Manager at Atari. Jeff is a sought-after speaker and thought-leader in entrepreneurship, blockchain, and virtual reality. Jeff has a BA and MBA from Stanford University.
Roberto Santana, Advisor
Former Senior Manager at Coursera, Product and Strategy Advisor. Entrepreneur and Growth Product Management lead at Coursera. Roberto played an important role in helping Coursera scale globally and acquire over 27 million learners worldwide. Prior to joining Coursera, Roberto was responsible for leading the Growth team at Zendesk (NYSE: ZEN), a customer service software provider, where he helped grow the number of paying customers by 60%. Before Zendesk, Roberto was a Senior Engineer at Royal Dutch shell where he led a team responsible for $400M in revenue. Roberto has three engineering degrees with honors and an MBA from Stanford University.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
1. Shortage of tech talent – up to 40% by 2020.
2. Education system that leads to no jobs – keeps on producing economists or lawyers that can't find jobs.
3. 1 billion people still can't access education that leads to employment.
4. Current education methods are outdated and the entire system cannot be fixed, it needs to be reinvented from the ground up with the newest technologies and gamification.
5. The Incentives of Educators, Employers, and Students are misaligned – there is a hidden intermediary based on hope and trust that needs to be eliminated.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
1. blockchain contracts that align the incentives of educators, employers, and students, eliminating hope and trust.
2. community-governed and maintained education platform with shared upside for everyone.
3. online, affordable, gamified education experience with token incentives.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
DS: The education industry has not changed in ages, literally. It's all the same – batch production of “good” student and utterly useless memorization. Although the classrooms can be upgraded and the content can be put online, this is not solving the problem of teaching the skills that lead to employment. Therefore, with blockchain, it is now possible to align the incentives in the education-employment system at a grand scale and bring the education to the last billion.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: Majority of universities will be replaced by more practical online courses and active personal development.
Prediction #2: Employment will transition into self-employment/freelancing.
Prediction #3: Self-actualization through self-discovery (learning, experimentation, and self-employment) will become mainstream way of life. Personal learning IDs on blockchain and AI recommendations based on the past-performance will be used to pave the educational path to the dream job.