Jailbreaking the Degree

This certainly makes for an interesting dinner topic. The only real problem I see with unbundling the college degree is that it is there is very little flexibility on the demand side of the job market. When it comes to credentials the degree is still an binary filter. You have it or you don’t.


Editor’s note: David Blake is the Founder of Degreed, the new degree for the new world. Previously, he helped launch New Charter University and was a founding member of Zinch, since acquired by Chegg.

Jailbreakverb. 1 To get out of a restricted mode of operation. 2 To enable use of a product not intended by the manufacturer.

Currently, the degree is the only meaningful “unit” of education to which employers give any credence. Of this dependency, TIME magazine writes, “The tight connection between college degrees and economic success may be a nearly unquestioned part of our social order. Future generations may look back and shudder at the cruelty of it… It is inefficient, both because it wastes a lot of money and because it locks people who would have done good work out of some jobs.”

The traditional degree, with its four-year time commitment and steep…

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Traveling to the Bay Area in July and August? Check out these tech events

Many of my European friends take advantage of summer vacations to visit the Bay Area. A few ask me to suggest tech events to attend while they are here.

I put together a list of interesting tech and business events taking place in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, in July and August 2010. The focus is mostly web, internet marketing, social media, software etc.

Here’s the Google calendar in HTML and iCal format.

PS: I am not associated with, nor endorse any specific listed organization or event.

When entering the US market, think about the cost

Entrepreneurs around the world often grossly underestimate what it takes to enter the US market. Take for example technology or software, sectors that I know. Attracted by the size of the American market and the potential opportunity to raise millions in capital that is not available home, entrepreneurs decide to take the leap and create a beachhead.

Conventional wisdom around Europe and Asia is that a local parent company will keep its engineering and product development home and “open a Silicon Valley office to market the product/service/technology”. Perfect. Until you get down to assessing what resources are required. And assessing you must, least finding out later in the game that you are grossly undersized for the challenge.

I may cover legal costs, accounting, infrastructure, rent and other investments another time. Now I want to focus on talent, the scarcest of resources, even in this market.

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Breaking down a crowdsourcing business model

Logo Tournament Social AdI have been in looking into crowdsourcing business models for the last couple of months. Personal and professional interest. As often the case, when a subject is on your mind, you stumble upon it. So, when ads like this one started popping up on my Facebook page I clicked through.

The ads send you to Logo tournament (LT), a crowdsourcing play on logo design services. It’s quite straightforward. Company needs a new logo, it submits a “contest” to LT and sets a price. Designers send in one or more designs. The best design wins and the designer gets paid.

I tried to figure out how a business model like LT’s would look like.


LT charges designers a 15% transaction fee. Companies set the price they are willing to pay in advance, with a minimum allowed of $250. Paypal transaction fees are passed on to customers.

Note that LT will take the money from companies in “escrow” and select and pay a winner at the end of the contest even if a company does not select a winning design. That means that if a contest is listed, the money will be paid and the commission earned.

LT lists all open and closed contests at any given time. I counted about ~165 open concurrent contests with an average age of 5.1 days and ~1,800 closed contests. I sampled 100 contests at random and calculated an average prize amount of ~$315. Assuming a steady flow of contests, that means about ~1000 contests a month (i.e. 30/5.1*165=971).

With commissions at 15%, that adds up to a monthly revenue of close to $50,000. The estimate is obviously highly sensitive to the monthly contest count estimate. Here’s a back of the envelope revenue estimate (with lower and higher estimates to test for sensitivity).

Logo Tournament Revenue

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Why Facebook should sell your data

We are drowning in irrelevant advertising. Some are inspired by it, most ignore it, some would like to get more relevant ad messages.

I have been convinced for a while now that selling user data is one of the most direct and potentially lucrative ways social networks can achieve the kind of revenues that would justify their valuations. A recent article on Facebook’s intention to “cash in” on user data reminded me of a recent conversation.

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