Alibaba founder Jack Ma has announced that he plans to retire at age 54 and turn his attention back to education. He started his career as an English teacher.
It seems, from reading the piece I linked to and a few other news reports, that Jack Ma is inspired by what Bill and Melinda Gates have done.
So am I.
Bill Gates attended AFSE, a school that the Gotham Gal and I helped to start something like seven years ago, this spring and he wrote this recently about that experience.
Many have criticized the work that the Gates Foundation has done in education over the years.
But my view is different.
Bill and Melinda are investing, learning, evolving, and adapting their efforts.
Just like we all do in life.
Bill’s visit to AFSE showed him something he liked. He was inspired by it, wrote about it, and I suspect it will influence the way he thinks a bit.
Like Jack Ma, Bill and Melinda are relatively young and have so much capital to invest in education and their other target areas.
The impact people like Bill, Melinda, and Jack can and will have on education around the world is immense.
And we need it.
Education is provided very unevenly on planet earth.
A high-quality education is easy to come by if you are wealthy and/or live in a wealthy country.
But even in the US, a very wealthy country, we have much of our population receiving a poor or uneven education at best.
I see this in the NYC public school system where I do most of my education philanthropy.
We have 1.1 million public school students here in NYC and many of them are not getting the education they need and deserve.
The reasons for this are many and the solutions are hard.
But I see amazing things happen in the middle of this mess and I know that we can help more kids get a better education and we are doing that.
Reinventing education requires not just working inside the established systems, it means working outside of them and ultimately rethinking them and replacing them.
But all of this has to happen in parallel. We cannot let the existing systems falter and fail our children while we are busy finding better ways.
At USV, we have a number of exciting portfolio companies that are rethinking how education should work. Companies like DuoLingo, Quizlet, Codecademy, Skillshare, and Top Hat.
Part of the answer is backing entrepreneurs like the ones behind these companies to come up with better, less expensive, and more available education solutions for our globe.
And part of the answer is changing the way employers think about education. At USV, we do not require any sort of degree to work for us. But we require skills, knowledge, and curiosity. Many larger companies are starting to do the same.
The internet and technology writ large are making it a lot easier for someone to learn something. But we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible. Twenty-five years after the emergence of the web browser and the commercial internet, education still works largely like it did back then.
That is going to change, is changing, and I am very excited for it to happen.
And I am happy that massively successful people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Jack Ma are focusing their capital and productive energy in this area.
I am too.