ConsciousEd is a university for life skills

Before starting ConsciousEd, I asked myself “what is the biggest problem in the world?” For me it’s education. Because education is the lever that moves all other levers. If you give someone the right skills and mindset, there’s no limit to what they could achieve. They could be the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.

How much of what you learned at university or school do you still remember or use in your current job or personal life? Our bet is not much.

Meanwhile, the skills and knowledge we mostly need in the workplace and in life aren’t taught in universities. Skills like effective communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, self-knowledge, money management, and entrepreneurship.

The Challenge

There are world leaders and billionaires who have distilled the best of their life wisdom and principles of success into books. Books that we can buy for $10 online. And because the internet makes information accessible to anyone, self-directed learning is possible now more than ever.

But most people don’t bother with self-directed learning because:

1. It’s a lot of effort for people to read a whole book or do an online course
2. I’ts much easier to watch TV or read the news, which are filled with mind-numbing crap
3. There’s too much information on the internet to work through
4. People may not know where to start or how to structure their learning effort
5. In self-directed learning there is no peer group to learn with, no support, accountability or a community to bounce ideas off and learn from

The Solution in 4 Stages

Stage 1: A simple blog

Currently we’re writing a blog that puts the best of these ideas into the most entertaining form. We’re reading 100s of books, summarizing the best nuggets of wisdom from world leaders and billionaires, and repackaging them as entertaining articles, complete with personal stories, stupid jokes, and stick figure cartoons.

We aim to hit 1m readers by month 6, using SEO and influencer marketing. We have the email addresses of 70% of all bloggers and influencers in the world via Contactout.com’s database, which we will use for custom audience ad targeting. We’ve had experience growing Contactout and Dealsextra to over 1m visitors per month via SEO. Canva’s blog got to 1m readers in 6 months from 0 – we’re going to use a similar strategy.

Stage 2: Open source curriculum for life

We’re going to invite the best minds in the world to help us create the first 3 year degree for life skills. It will be created collaboratively, powered by APIs similar to Wikipedia.

Our open source curriculum appreciates the structure provided by traditional institutions of higher learning but our focus will be on revolutionizing content. What we will teach will be relevant and actionable in real world scenarios.

Stage 3: Social network for learning

We will create a social network for learning.

When users start a course on our website, there will be a chat box at the bottom corner of the screen, just like the chat box on Facebook. Users will be encouraged to say hello, find a study partner, set study dates, do group assignments and stay accountable to each other.

We’ll introduce gamification, offering points and rewards for interactions.

There will be classes via video conference. These classes will be student driven. Students will teach each other, discuss challenges they are facing and share feedback on actioning their learnings.

We will look to monetize these classes but only in affluent countries and on a donation basis.

Stage 4: Community run study groups

As the global movement of ConsciousEd builds momentum, we will organize offline community-run study groups and classes. We anticipate that ConsciousEd will grow as a learning global community and spread in the same way that religion spreads.

Religion works because there is an overarching theory that is so central to people’s sense of meaning and purpose, that people are moved to form communities, donate their time and money, and bring their friends and family on board.

By making insanely great courses about life, we touch upon some of the same deep motivations that will create a movement and inspire communities to self-organize.

Funding Model

Generally speaking universities are funded by a combination of federal and state government grants, private endowments and private enterprise. Universities also collect revenue through student tuition fees, but this source of income is the most negligible portion of a university’s overall revenue stream.

Our aim is to raise 1 billion dollars in solving the problem of quality education.

For Stage 1 (blog), we’re planning to self fund with a team of 6, though, we may be open to seed capital from the right investors.

For stage 2 (open source curriculum) we plan to raise $3m+

For Stage 3 (social network for learning) we plan to raise $30m+

For stage 4 (community study groups) we plan to raise $100m+ and to reach our end goal of having an open source university, we plan to raise $500m+

For stages 2-4 we will be following the same funding model as traditional universities, appealing to state and federal grants, private endowments and VC investors.

In the latter stages, as we aim to align ourselves with the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Quality Education for the entire world, we will target grant applications to international and regional funding bodies like USAID and the European Union.

Founder: Rob Liu is a 500 Startups and Startmate Alumni and founder of Contactout.com, an email search engine with a $2m+ revenue run rate. He is also the founder of Dealsextra.com.au, a $300k / year profit coupon site.

Co-Founder: Dr. Samar Habib is a writer, researcher and scholar. A seasoned Editor-in-Chief, she is also the author of  numerous books, articles, encyclopedia entries and online courses. She has given two TEDx talks and lectured at some of the best universities in the world.

Co-Founder: Before joining ConsciousEd, Patrick Cheng was a research analyst at Morgan Stanley,  covering the Australian healthcare sector. Now he brings his natural intellectual curiosity and passion for learning to help others pick up hard lessons, the easy way.