In early 2012, Degreed was little more than an idea for tracking lifelong educational accomplishments. Co-founder David Blake believed in his fledgling company’s concept, but he was still trying to figure out if the idea would work as a business.
That winter, he entered the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition. After Degreed was selected as a finalist, Blake traveled to the Penn campus in Philadelphia to pitch the business to judges, investors, educators, and researchers.
Degreed didn’t win, but the experience was invaluable. The feedback Blake received in Philadelphia helped him refine Degreed’s business plan.
“In the early days, you’re just looking to validate your ideas and business,” Blake said. “Later on, you get feedback from users and customers, but you don’t have anything like that yet. It was just good for us to hear that people liked the idea.”
Blake entered the competition shortly after quitting his day job to focus on Degreed. He and a co-founder were working on a prototype -- their idea was to create a single platform that would recognize public, informal, and academic learning so users could show their range of education experience.
“Lynda is great when I’m on Lynda, and Stanford is great when I’m at Stanford, and GE management training is great when I’m a GE employee, but there was nothing serving lifelong learners,” Blake said.
Originally, Degreed gave individual learners a way to show their complete educational record. In 2014, it launched a second version that gave companies a better way to guide training.
The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, now in its sixth year, has branched out into two paths: Venture, for early-stage education companies, and Idea, for entrepreneurs who are still developing their business. Entrepreneurs will be competing for more than $110,000 in prize money. Applications are being accepted through February 23, and the finals will be held at Penn May 10 and 11.